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Palo Mesa Pizza brings Neapolitan, Roman, conventional pies to California’s Central Coast

Palo Mesa Pizza fuels the pizza wants of California’s Central Coast. The five-unit model gives conventional pizza, but additionally Neapolitan and Roman-style.

Michael Stevens runs a sequence of pizzerias in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it area of California. The award-winning pizzaiolo studied the culinary arts in Michigan earlier than launching Palo Mesa Pizza in 2007. With 34 years within the restaurant enterprise, Stevens has achieved all of it, from washing dishes to delivering pizzas and eventually proudly owning his personal eating places. It is the American dream – and Stevens would not have it another method.


Palo Mesa Pizza opened in Arroyo Grande 16 years in the past, and Stevens has since opened 4 extra eating places in San Luis Obispo County. He did not begin out in pizza; fairly he lower his enamel on positive eating after graduating culinary college. “I like the specifics of it, I like the creativity of it, however I wasn’t into the frou frou kind scenario,” he mentioned.

He labored for each large chains and independents earlier than assembly his spouse, Kelly, and the pair honeymooned in California and beloved the realm. They moved to the Central Coast of California in 2006, and Stevens started to chef at an upscale barbecue restaurant whereas Kelly served as a nurse. Only a yr later, their first pizzeria opened with a companion whereas Stevens nonetheless cheffed on the upscale steakhouse.

In 2008, they took over the steakhouse and 6 months later took over full management of Palo Mesa Pizza.

“I ate pizza throughout this city and it was horrible,” Stevens mentioned. “I mentioned ‘you realize what? There must be a pizzeria right here.’ I do know pizza pretty effectively.”

Regardless of a failing financial system in 2008-2009, Stevens opened his second restaurant in a shopping mall simply three to 4 miles from their first restaurant. “We reside on the Central Coast, he mentioned. “We’re form of secluded a bit bit from the remainder of the world. When different folks had been going out of enterprise, we had been going into enterprise. … Had been form of searching for extra publicity and extra foot visitors. Issues had been vacating, and that is a less expensive time to get in.”

A 3rd pizzeria adopted in San Luis Obispo. In the meantime, Stevens received a number of competitors awards for his pizza and even went to Italy to compete.


Stevens’ first three pizzerias targeted on Americanized Midwest pizza, however it was whereas he was in Italy that he fell in love with Neapolitan pizza and “the simplicity of crushed tomatoes straight from the can that is brisker than any tomato which you can get in a retailer, and the simplicity of the contemporary mozzarella and the basil and the ocean salt.”

When he can house from Italy, he purchased a trailer to make Neapolitan pizza, and it has an oven that may bake as much as 120 pizzas an hour. His fourth pizzeria was constructed within the village of Arroyo Grande and sells Neapolitan pizza and it seems to be prefer it got here out of Italy with simply 600 sq. toes and a wood-fired oven.

“Now we make California Neapolitan pizza,” Stevens mentioned.

The pandemic hit and a close-by mall requested Stevens to open a unit, however this time he opted for Roman model. “Mainly it is turnkey,” he mentioned. “We simply needed to make the pizza.”

Now, Stevens has 5 items – two traditional-style pizzerias, a Neapolitan place and a Roman-style pizzeria. “I feel it is a group scenario,” Stevens mentioned. “I handle the individuals who handle us. I took me a very long time to know that I do not pay my staff – the group does. It is actually buyer pushed. It is actually group oriented.”

The model has been head-hunted by a developer to open one other location in San Luis Obispo in an open-air market that is being constructed proper now and shall be firm’s sixth retailer. A number of years in the past, a franchise lawyer reached out to Stevens with the thought of franchising, however Stevens mentioned he thinks the model is completed with six areas. He desires to spend extra time along with his familt.

In home

A lot is completed in-house, from grinding sausage and pickling contemporary jalapenos to brining hen and making ranch dressing.

The latest pizzeria beneath building may have a plot of land the place Stevens will be capable to develop produce for the pizzerias. “Not solely will we make our personal stuff, however we’ll additionally be capable to develop our personal greens,” Stevens mentioned. “I might say there’s nothing that we do not make. We do not even purchase frozen bacon. We prepare dinner breakfast bacon, chop it up and put it on our pizzas.”

Meatballs are made in home and whereas Palo Mesa does not make its personal pasta, the model makes lasagna contemporary. Why is doing a lot in-house so necessary?

“What number of pizzerias are there on this planet?” Stevens requested. “I feel that we differentiate ourselves from different pizzerias once we’re doing it ourselves. I might say 90% of pizzerias in my neighborhood use the identical sausage or use the identical pepperoni or use the identical hamburger or bacon. So what’s setting them aside apart from service? I might say that we’re in a position to create a product that no one else on the Central Coast can create, or no one else on this planet can create, for that matter.

“There is not any higher feeling than standing in considered one of your personal institutions and getting the suggestions that you just get and the love that you just really feel for what you do and the fervour that you just put in it.”

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the positioning editor for and She has greater than 20 years’ expertise protecting meals, folks and locations.
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings greater than 20 years’ expertise to Networld Media Group. She has spent almost 20 years protecting the pizza business, from unbiased pizzerias to multi-unit chains and each dimension enterprise in between. Mandy has been featured on the Meals Community and has received quite a few awards for her protection of the restaurant business. She has an insatiable urge for food for studying, and might let you know the place to seek out one of the best slices within the nation after spending 15 years touring and consuming pizza for a residing. 


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