Batter up!

Phillip Brents

Fri October 30, 2015 2:47pm

Pizzo’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar owner Santino Pizzo found himself right in the middle of all the excitement this past summer when the Sweetwater Valley Little League 12U all-star team advanced all the way to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
Pizzo’s Pizzeria, the official sponsor of the team, hosted several viewing parties for fans at the restaurant’s location at The Shop’s at San Miguel Ranch in eastern Chula Vista. Overflow crowds cheered on the team to its eventual third-place finish in the United States championship bracket and got acquainted with one of the city’s finest new eating establishments.
“We were involved with the team from day one,” Pizzo explained. “We had a couple hundred people out in the courtyard with the big TV (for the viewing parties). I met a lot of new people, made some new friends and expanded our clientele.”
Pizzo has been in the restaurant business for 20 years. He previously owned an Italian-themed restaurant in Encinitas before opening the new pizza shop last August. Business has been good enough that Pizzo is making plans to expand the interior of the restaurant to include a covered outside patio with an additional 20 seats. There are also plans to redesign the existing front patio, he said.
Given the establishment’s name, pizza is king here and everything is a winner whether tastes run to the 12-inch Neapolitan light and thin crust or the traditional American hand-tossed medium crust (14- or 18-inch sizes). The shop also serves daily specials, salads and several popular pasta dishes on the dinner menu.
Pizzo said the new venture has already exceeded expectations. In fact, the restaurant was a recent recipient of the Outstanding Business Award presented by the Sunset Rotary Club of Chula Vista.
That’s Italian
How authentic is the cuisine? Pizzo’s grandmother, Nona Nina Giametta, brought the recipes over from her native Sicily. She arrived in Brooklyn 65 years ago. Both of Santino’s parents were born in Italy.
“I grew up with a lot of Italian meals — big family meals and all the cooking,” he said.
Pizzo said his passion for pizza and his passion for the community in which he lives led him to open the new restaurant. “There are great people who live here,” he said. “I wanted to follow my passion, my dream, and do it again.”
Pizzo’s Pizzeria hit a home run during our recent review.
Above and beyond, the housemade meatballs and marinara sauce hit a grand slam. The recipe is Pizzo’s grandmother’s. The meatballs, served three as a side, are ground beef with a mixture of milk and breadcrumbs and are baked. The sauce is made from organic tomatoes, hand-ground and topped with fresh basil and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Neapolitan pizzas are made from flour imported from Italy and range from $8 (marinara) and $9 (Margherita) to $13 (Giana’s Garden) and $14 (San Miguel).
Giana’s Garden has a decidedly vegetarian slant with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, zucchini, eggplant, artichokes, mushroom, tomatoes, olives and basil.
The San Miguel features spicy pepperoni, chorizo, goat cheese, poblano chiles, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.
The Bocce Ball scored a triple on our scorecard. The tasty pizza contains sliced meatball, spinach, basil, fresh mozzarella, provolone and tomato sauce.
Popular classic American pizzas ($14 to $23, large to extra large) include the Rolling Hills (pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, crimini mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, black olives, tomato sauce and mozzarella) and meat-lover’s carne (pepperoni, Italian sausage, meatball, salami, Canadian bacon, tomato sauce and mozzarella).
Pizzo said the restaurant is ready to add eight new pizzas to the menu. The restaurant also offers a lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with torpedo sandwiches spotlighted.
Star attractions beside the pizza include the Buffalo Gorgonzola chicken wings — spicy sauce but not atomic — and the Tuscan salad (greens, artichokes, tomatoes, mozzarella, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives, pecans and balsamic dressing).
Dinner is served from 5 p.m. and features lasagna and other selected pastas such as spaghetti with meat or marinara sauce, sausage and mushroom penne, chicken penne pesto and seafood pasta (mussels, clams, calamari and shrimp). Prices range from $9.99 to $15.95. The restaurant serves red and white wine imported from Italy and Argentina as well as domestic varieties.
Deliveries are limited to a five-mile radius. The restaurant also offers a popular catering service.
“We do a lot of large orders with schools, a lot with High Tech High and Liberty Elementary, Marshall Elementary, a lot of fall festivals,” Pizzo said. ”It’s great being part of the community and supporting their functions.”
Business hours are Monday 4 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 11 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m.