Pie in the Sky
A Pizza Paradise is a place in Marina.
Thursday, November 2, 2006
If heaven doesn’t serve pizza, I’m not interested. Then again, should the Pearly Gates Food Court lack that slice of the good life, perhaps I could help broker a deal with a pizza-maker from down here.
I uncovered a candidate in a Marina strip mall just the other day: A Pizza Paradise off Reservation Road. The array of combinations there are, well, divine, and great flavors rise from there. Owner and lifetime local Jay Gray, beyond prizing pie-by-pie quality over quantity, also heaps on the community support through discounts and events. Plus he has Hawaiian beers on tap that evoke thoughts of ambrosia (Kona Coast Brewing Company’s Longboard Lager, Paradise Amber and Firerock Pale Ale, $3.50/pint; $2/Friday). In short, the name Paradise fits.
My slice of Paradise turned into five “mini” eight-inch pizzas, two “grinder” sandwiches and a big salad. (I was loading up on a range of their signature eats for a lunch meeting at the Weekly.) The pizzas also come in small (12-inch, $12.75-$16.95), medium (16-inch, $16.50-$20.95) and large (18-inch, $19.50-$23.95). If so inspired, each pizza can be converted into a calzone; there are also some island-inspired rice plates on the menu. And walk-in patrons can order by the slice ($1.95-$2.25; $2.75/slice and soda).
Unfortunately, this joint’s type of deliverance only extends to Marina and Fort Ord, so from Seaside I had to hitch up my chariot for pick-up. Once back at the Weekly, my colleagues and I quickly had our toes on the smorgasbord. We rode the waves of flavor that came on the thin-but not-too-thin crust from there.
Da Piggy ($5.50/mini) was adorned with pieces of wonderfully slow-roasted, Hawaiian-style pulled pork partying with fresh bell peppers, red onion and pineapple. Um, yum.
White Sands Beach ($6.75/mini) featured sizable chunks of bacon, big white pieces of chicken, olives, green and sweet red onions, and tomato. It’s a great combo made just about amazing by a garlic cream sauce that supplants the standard red.
Wild Mushroom Dreams ($6.50) is an angelic device itself—assorted fresh fungi with tomatoes, red onions and the right amount of garlic. Along with garlic-laced Pepperoni Island Delite ($5.50), they are signs that Gray does mainstream selections with the subtleties that elevate them above the average ‘za. (The calzones and pizzas can also be custom-made.)
The Jamaican Me Crazy ($6.50), meanwhile, quickly revealed why it’s the most popular peanut-butter-involved pizza pie in the area. Jerk chicken, carrot slivers, onions, and bell peppers give the cheese canvas life; mango sauce, garlic and a light layer of PB that mostly melts into the crust make it an unconventional tastebud blessing. Interestingly, Jay says the Pacific Rim of Fire ($5.75/eight-inch), a pizza powered by Korean kim chee, also ranks amongst his customers’ favorites.
On the grinder side of our flavor equation, both sandwiches came on big, warm, soft rolls further softened by Paradise’s pizza sauce and mozzarella, alongside a scoop of macaroni salad and a bag of potato chips. The Killer Kahlua Pork grinder ($5.95) was just that—the thick layer of nicely-finished pork was a killer grind. The Chicken Pesto ($5.95) was savory but mayonnaisey. (I must be a lil’ Hawaiian, though, because I like it like that.) The Woody’s Big Combo Salad (tossed chopped iceberg, ham, chicken, onions, mushrooms, tomato and bell peppers, $7.95) was super-sauced as well—and easily the heaviest salad I’ve ever picked up.
When it was all gone, the overeating guilt-giddiness that settled into my synapses attempted to distract me from the feel-good philosophy that Gray espouses. “Anyone who defends our country,” he told me over the phone after I tried to get him to deliver to Seaside, “or tries to help our kids, gets 15 percent off.” So servicemen, teachers, etc., get a break. He even knocks 15 percent off for the empty-fridge college folk.
It all translates to cloud nine-caliber eats with a conscience. Thank heavens for pizza.
A PIZZA PARADISE
215 Reservation Rd., Marina • 11:30am-10pm Tue-Sat; 4-9pm Sun; closed Mon. • 582-9149.