April 1, 2016 |

Conversation: Nancy Pezzi, Paisano’s Pizzeria

By Pizza Today

Paisano’s Pizzeria

Ione, California

The pizzeria’s two locations are situated in small towns in Northern California. Paisano’s features an extensive menu and invests in community outreach.

Owner Nancy Pezzi with son, John, and daughter, Kathryn, who have taken active roles in the business.

Owner Nancy Pezzi with son, John, and daughter, Kathryn, who have taken active roles in the business.

Nancy lets us in on Paisano’s origin story, growth & menu

In 2009, I decided I needed to come out of retirement as my husband and I had adopted three grandchildren. There was a little pizza parlor for sale and I jumped in. I had had a small deli previously and had catered for years but this was my first pizzeria and full restaurant.

Two of my four adult children work for me. John started in the Ione store and has taken over managing the Jackson location. My daughter Kathryn has been working on marketing and learning how to manage the finances. My older son Chris designed and manages our Web site and my son Scott takes care of all of our window stickers and signage.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. My family rallied and ran the store for me during the year I needed for treatment. We also took in a fourth grandchild. The key to having your children work for you is that they have to be vested in the family and in the business. One thing they both are learning is that it is not just an 8-to-5 position and that the paycheck may come from the business but it is the customer and their experience that is really paying them. Take care of your customer and they will take care of you. Growing up in a family restaurant, I believe, is one of the best life lessons on work ethics. My little ones come in and immediately clear tables and chat with our customers.

In 2014, I took another leap of faith and opened a second location — double the size — in the town of Jackson 10 miles away. It also had been a pizza place, but had been empty for six years. All of my children and grandchildren came and helped with the renovations and opening.

All of our recipes come from our family. I grew up making pizzas with my family. Our dough recipe comes from Chicago in the early 1920s. My grandmother taught my mom and we had pizza nights growing up — a tradition I continued with my children and a wealth of their friends.

My concept was (to) keep it fresh. We make our dough fresh daily, grate our own cheese and blend it, and our produce is cut fresh at our stores. We use a local meat company, Swingle Meat, that makes our Italian sausage and smokes our linguiça for us. Our pizza is a Chicago-style, thin-crust pizza.

Our menu is a bit extensive. Our Ione location is in a very small town with limited dining options. We offer pizza, appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, calzones, pasta and a salad bar. We continued with the original owners’ Tuesday night Rib Night, but changed it up with our dry rub and slow roasting the ribs in the bottom oven. It has been a huge success.

I have always believed in giving back to the community. We donate to our local schools for awards, church groups for events and clubs for raffles. The favorite silent action at our local events is a chance to bid on The Pizza for a Year and a chance to get a large pizza once a month! This year we are sponsoring a Little League team and have fed those down on their luck. My son Scott has a Burning Man Art Car that we enter in the local parades. Everyone loves the flame-throwing wagon!