Like matter and antimatter, Spencer and Heidi, San Bernardino County and corruption, certain things just can’t exist without the other. Meat and cheese are no exception—and when you throw ’em on top of a delicious crust you suddenly find yourself on that melty, drippy crazy train we like to call pizza heaven. Yup, meat pies are the name of the game here and for this special Restaurant Guide, we scoped out some of the best pizza shops in town. Cuz we’re saucy like that!
AJ BARILE’S CHICAGO PIZZA
The big secret to AJ Barile’s Pizza isn’t the fact that it’s sort of off the beaten path (though you’d be hard pressed to spot it off Interstate 10), nor is it the fact that not too many people immediately think of Yucaipa when they think of pizza delicacies. Seriously one of the best pizza stops in the Inland Empire, eating an AJ Barile’s pizza is more like an addiction that’s impossible to kick for one major reason: the crust. It’s so perfect in every way, and no matter which pizza you order (try their award-winning Chicago Stockyard special, featuring ingredients shipped straight from the Land of Lincoln’s largest city), you’re guaranteed a great slice every time. Stepping in their newer, larger and nicer location, you’re also going to get great service from the consistently friendly crew. Boasting an incomparable taste, largely thanks to a garlic/parmesan crust that’s equal parts hook, line and sinker for the olfactory senses, AJ Barile’s goods aren’t just modeled after a Windy City pizza—it’s a true blue Chicago pie that just happens to be baked up with love in the 909. And that’s a secret worth telling. (Waleed Rashidi)
AJ Barile’s Chicago Pizza, 32693 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa, (909) 790-0707; www.ajbarileschicagopizza.com.
CHICAGO PASTA HOUSE
No frills and no sophisticated “twists” on the traditional pie exist at this local dive with the retro red-and-white checked tablecloths. What you will find though are the best deep dish and stuffed crust pizzas west of Chicago’s South Side. This is not your standard pick-me-up wedge—you’ll definitely need fork and knife before the night’s over just to navigate its depths. That’s because every cheesy, greasy and gooey golden pie takes a good 20 to 25 minutes to bake, and there are tons of leftovers to be reckoned with by the end of the meal. What’s good here? Chef Dino Migliore does the stuffed spinach justice, and the Chicago Special with the homemade sausage makes a worthy competitor—but make no mistake. Rita’s Fish Delight easily steals top honors. This stuffed-crust pizza arrives at the table piled to the rim with fresh tomatoes, shrimp, clams and oven-roasted garlic. Now, that’s Italian! (Nancy Powell)
Chicago Pasta House, 24667 Sunnymead Blvd., Moreno Valley, (951) 924-5777; www.chicagopastahouse.com.
DeMatteo’s is another old-school pizza restaurant in the Inland Empire—Philadelphia sports memorabilia dots the walls, but other than the interior décor is a bleak affair. Even the mounted TV’s are small and retro, but that’s fine for a place more geared for the take-out action. This was my last stop on the pizza circuit, and I felt like if I had another slice I might, well, swear off pizza or something. Luckily, DeMatteo’s brags itself up as having the best strombolis in Riverside County. I decided to take the bait. The strombolis take awhile to come to the table, but these monsters are definitely worth it. Sliced wedges of dough sprinkled with delicate garlic slices and parmesan cheese form the outside of the stromboli; the inside is a melted cacophony of tasty pleasures-mozzarella meets 3 toppings of your choice with a spicy marinara sauce on the side. They’ve also got scads of apps, salads and of course, excellent variations on the pizza pie, along with the chance to customize your order. They deliver—take them up on it. (Bill Gerdes)
Dematteo’s, 7030 Magnolia Ave. Riverside, (951) 682-6198; www.dematteos.com.
I came to Rocky’s Pizzeria by accident, a by-product of a quixotic quest for a legendary pizza joint that is sadly dead as the dodo. On some level I “settled” for Rocky’s thus ensuring at least a hope in hell of being pleasantly surprised. Which I was. Rocky’s is worth a look for the following: wine margaritas that kick-ass and a large painting of the canals of Venice. There’s also a terrible green, yellow and red menu sign that smacks of Sbarro. On the day I was there it had an aging quarterback leading his team to victory on the widescreen. In short, Rocky’s is slightly tacky but totally chill. And tasty as well. After eating what felt like a locker full of pizza over the past week I in no way was looking forward to eating more. The Rocky’s Veggie features the usual suspects of green peppers, onions, mushrooms and the like, but the veggies are fresh, the dough is made on sight—all leading to a great pie. (B. Gerdes)
Rocky’s New York Style Pizzeria,1919 E. 4th St Ontario, (909) 989-8181; www.rockysnewyorkpizzeria.com
If sports, pizza and beer are your things, this little restaurant/bar in downtown Redlands is the perfect stop. While Jerseys’ dining room, decked with sports memorabilia, is just small enough to view multiple TV screens from all angles, the tables are big enough for large gatherings and sharing multiple (key word here is “multiple”) pitchers of beer. The restaurant and bar offers a large variety of beers on tap and bottled, from Oregon to the locally brewed. And for those who enjoy a glass of vino with their Italian, Jerseys also has a small list of the grape goodness to choose from. But, the best part of Jerseys is the piping hot pies served while the cheese is still melting and loaded with your choice of toppings. Jerseys’ cheesy pizzas may get messy but it’s hard to care when you’re surrounded by friends, your team is winning and the beer is ice-cold—now there’s nothing cheesy about that. (Lynn Lieu)
Jerseys Pizza, 214 Orange St, Redlands; (909) 335-7076; www.jerseyspizza.com.
PIZZA N SUCH
Located in one of Claremont’s historic buildings in the Village, Pizza N Such provides a great conversational atmosphere. The family-friendly restaurant is inviting to college crowds, parties and families. While it can get busy at times, this Italian pie shop is worth the wait. With pizzas as the obvious center of the menu, Pizza N Such serves a variety of them loaded with toppings—unless you order the cheese pizza. From the over-packed pepperonis to the complicated Hawaiian (ham, pineapple, onions and tomatoes), there’s a pie for every taste. But, the toppings come at a price; Pizza N Such is no $5 pie place. It’s like a gourmet burger: Sometimes you just have to spend a little more and sometimes splurging on pizza isn’t such a bad thing. (Lynn Lieu)
Pizza N Such, 202 Yale Ave, Claremont, (909) 624-7214.
EDDIE’S NEW YORK PIZZERIA
Claremont isn’t known for housing much of a big city attitude. In fact, this land “of trees and Ph.D.s” is more likely a favorite for its small-town vibe, eco-friendly collective conscious and being a place where good eats are always easily found. But leave it to a place like Eddie’s, housed in the northwestern edge of the city to smartly meld the aforementioned affable nature with a decidedly urban interior flair replete with classic traffic signals and lampposts reminiscent of the hustle-and-bustle that’s more akin to the Eastern Time Zone than eastern L.A. County. There’s plenty of seating for families and friends, with televisions to entertain while chomping down on the place’s signature creations. And lest we forget about those pizzas—they’re incredibly mouth-friendly, particularly when topped with some roasted garlic (our recommendation is to spring for the extra change for that topping charge, as it’s well worth the added flavor). Now, Eddie’s isn’t some bargain pizza joint, but at least you know that you’re paying for pizza that’s a cut above the rest (and the prices aren’t outlandish). Plus, for the budget-minded, check out the restaurant’s nightly specials, which include both pizza and non-pizza fare. (George Donovan)
Eddie’s New York Pizzeria & Eatery, 1065 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont, (909) 398-1985; www.eddiesnewyorkpizzeria.com.
SAN BIAGIO’S PIZZA NEW YORK STYLE
Everything about this pizza screams true to its subtitle, as it really is the Big Apple treat lost somewhere in a city that once was part of the citrus capital of the world. San Biagio’s crust-crunchy creations are reasonably thin, a little greasier than our polished Californian tastes are accustomed to and unmistakably full of foldable flavor. (In other words, for those used to ordering up the big-chain pizza chow, this is quite the taste bud wake-up call.) The location itself is reminiscent of a pizza stop in the middle of Manhattan only that it happens to be situated a wee bit closer to the 10 freeway than anything on that side of the coast. And there’s not a whole lot of bling or pizzazz with San Biagio’s once you step inside—just stop on by, order your goods from the pizza gurus behind the counter and get on with the show. It’s no-nonsense, devoid of any pretense and straight to the point, the way most New Yawkers—and many in the Inland Empire—like to live their lives. (George Donovan)
San Biagio’s Pizza New York Style, 1263 W. 7th St., Upland, (909) 946-9277, www.sanbiagios.com.
Entering Capone’s is like entering Jurassic Park, except there’s more pizza and less Jeff Goldblum. This place is for those who remember 1981 vividly, with its dated video games, décor and pool table. Blue wafts of smoke and 50-cent drafts are the only missing bit from the late ’70s/early ’80s motif here, and the children playing near the bar area harkens back to an era when we were all just a tad more relaxed about shit. That nostalgic vibe extends to the pizza at Capone’s too. I had hopes of ordering a pie with pine nuts on it for the girlfriend, but the minute I walked through the doors I grasped the fact that doing so would earn me ridicule or worse. No, this is the place for drippy, cheesy, meaty pizza in all its delicious nostalgic tastiness. Their “Works” pie rocks with 11 ingredients and the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger gives me angina just thinking about it. Perhaps their only nod to the last 20 years is the White Pizza, which I don’t remember from the early Reagan years. Occasional specials and draft beer can’t take your wallet back to ’81, but ’02 works too. (Bill Gerdes)
Capone’s Pizza, 10530 Magnolia Ave. Ste. C, Riverside, (951) 785-4041.
Twisted Gourmet isn’t what a typical pizza joint would look like with its sleek, contemporary lines and the knight standing guard in a corner, but its unique selection of pizzas (18 in all!) would make any CPK blush with envy. What’s good here, you ask? That depends on whether you’re devoted to red, white or pesto sauce. On the pesto side is the White Tiger—a tender and chewy crust dressed in white sauce and topped by a pound of tiger shrimp, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeno pesto. White Lady from the white side is equally enticing if not a tad bit unusual for a traditional pizza—pears, pine nuts, mozzarella and provolone—as is Love Potion #9 with its dried cranberries on chicken breast and aged gorgonzola. As for traditional red sauce, hats off to the Puerto Nuevo, the White Tiger’s alter ego with the pound of tiger shrimp, garlic, Turkish capers and herbs. Twisted Gourmet offers Love Potion #9, Quattro Amore and Puerto Nuevo in salad and pasta versions, but why bother with the twists if you can’t have it without the greens? (Nancy Powell)
Twisted Gourmet, 163 W. Ontario Ave., Ste. 101, Corona, (951) 736-3600; www.twisted-gourmet.com.
GOURMET PIZZA SHOPPE
This joint is seriously misnamed. Its moniker should be the “Ginormous Varieties of Pizzas, So Many That the Menu Runs to Six-Freaking-Pages, Pizza Shoppe” or something like that. It’s this overwhelming preponderance of choices that makes this place in downtown Redlands so unique; its utter overload of different types and styles of pizza left me in such a state of rapture—or disbelief—that I couldn’t take my eyes off the menu for most of the meal. Here’s a glance at just a few. To start there’s salad pizza, seven or eight types of that, which turns out to be mostly pizza married to salad minus the crust. There’s also a slew of dessert choices featuring peanut butter, blueberries, fudge amongst other sundry items all inexplicably topped with Jack cheese. And then there are names, like the Wild Mayan, the Brando, the No Kissing Tonight and the Jack Sprat, which jack up the fun and flair aspect of the establishment. While a bit of a misnomer to call this gourmet pizza, our pies arrived within 10 minutes of ordering them. The Gourmet Pizza Shoppe is as unique as its menu. As an added plus, they serve Hangar 24. (Bill Gerdes)
The Gourmet Pizza Shoppe, 120 E. State St. Redlands, (909) 792-3313; www.gourmetpizzas.com.
Located in an unassuming strip mall in Corona, Anthony’s can consider itself elevated into the realm of pizza all-stars for delivering a ferociously good pie that far outshines this pizza parlor’s humble address. Allow us to recommend the gastronomical spectacle of the everything-on-it pie, which Anthony’s calls its Supreme. Order it with the thick crust (seriously, this is a must) and you have the crowing glory. Red onions, green peppers, pepperoni, olives and sausage are among the toppings heftily heaped atop the dough, each one jostling each other for more elbow room. Is there enough chewy crust to hold it all? Stop asking yourself silly questions and chow down on this magnificent creation. I mean, look at the chunks of sausage! More like miniature meatballs, I’d say. Visually stunning (full disclosure: That pizza on the cover—it’s Anthony’s) and tasting three times as good as it looks, this is a pie that begs to be added to your regular dining-out routine. Jeez, if the rest of Anthony’s offerings are this nosh-worthy, ditch your regular pizza dude and make the Supreme your new BFF. You’ll never look at a strip mall the same way again. (Matt Tapia)
Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta, 13100 Magnolia Ave. Unit H, Corona, (951) 279-6960.
ROMANO’S CHICAGO PIZZERIA
Wander into the Romano’s at the Canyon Crest Town Center on a Thursday night and you’ll more than likely catch local comics honing their yucks on IE-centered material like meth, tramp stamps and . . . um . . . meth. Saunter in on a Saturday and you’ll often witness the spectacle of a local cover band serving up some recycled Van Halen, Smiths, or the Cure. These are thin pizza nights, deemed “sissy” pizza by the proprietors, and more suited to soaking up stray booze than truly satisfying the pie craving palate. Ah, but the Chicago-style stuffed pizzas at Romano’s, there need be no threadworn Kiss impersonators or hacky stand-up. Damn tasty pizza exists for its own sake, don’t ya know. The Bad, Bad LeeRoy Brown pie is a tribute to protein overload, as meatballs, ham, pepperoni and sausage mash up so intensely that it’s borderline obnoxious. Also of note is the Chicago Pie, featuring enough spinach to send Popeye into vitamin A overdose. Cheesy, spinachy, amazing, the Chicago Pie is the rare dish that makes you feel healthy while you’re deep frying your arteries. But really all the stuffed pies at Romano’s are delicious and worth the added price, wait and occasional lame joke. (Bill Gerdes)
Romano’s Pizzeria 5225 Canyon Crest Dr. #58 Riverside, (951) 781-0773; www.romanosrestaurants.com.
NEW YORK PIZZA DEPARTMENT
Everything at New York Pizza Department screams New York, from the memorabilia that occupies every nook and cranny of this tiny restaurant (go Yanks!) to the owner himself, Mike Edelstein, a tall, gruff-looking teddy bear of a fella who could pass for a Manhattan cabbie. While they do carry a thick crust version (the Sicilian), NYPD’s specialty is the Neapolitan pizzas, crispy thin crust gems that any Bronx (or Big City) native would die for, although a veggie version of the Sicilian, called the Bronx Botanical Garden, is the ultimate health-food lover’s delight. This pie is topped with fresh broccoli florets, mushrooms, white onions, diced red and yellow bell peppers, eggplant and lots of minced garlic. Get it whole or soived by the slice (before 4PM) for just $3.50. Mike also makes a dessert version called the Apple Pizza, which can be likened to apple pie a la mode on pizza dough—thin slices of baked green apples smothered in a homemade caramel sauce on a crisp crust sprinkled liberally with cinnamon sugar. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the two scoops of cinnamon ice cream on top which adds to the messy affair . . . but it’s pure apple pie heaven nobody would want to miss. (Nancy Powell)
New York Pizza Department, 2279 Eagle Glen Pkwy. Ste. 105, Corona, (951) 493-6789; www.nypdcorona.com.
BONELLO’S NEW YORK PIZZA
Like buried treasure, hidden in the most unexpected place, Bonello’s New York Pizza is located in a strip mall off the 215 freeway in Grand Terrace. With a small painted storefront and a plain dining room, Bonello’s gold lies in its pizza—or better yet, its dough. Offered as an appetizer, the garlic bread knots are perfect examples of Bonello’s excellent manna from heaven. The garlic flavor is extremely strong and the knots, served with a tangy marinara sauce, are delicious. As for the pizzas, while the cheese and toppings are good, they’re nothing compared to the soft crust they sit on as evident in Bonello’s pizza subs—long, oval-shaped pizzas that are Bonello’s idea of a “small” pie. Mostly bread due to its shape, the pizza sub is a delicious doughy surprise; even though the crust is soft, the rest of the pie is surprisingly, fairly crispy or as Baby Bear would put it, “Just right.” (Lynn Lieu)
Bonello’s New York Pizza, 22413 Barton Rd., Grand Terrace, (909) 825-9852; www.bonellospizza.com.
Serving up slices in Old Town La Verne for over two decades, Warehouse Pizza has been the default stop for area residents, shoppers and students from the University of La Verne located just down the street. It’s housed in an extremely convenient location, the prices are rather reasonable and the food never fails to satiate daylong craves. Best of all, there are options for those flying solo who just can’t fathom noshing down an entire pizza in one sitting. For starters, we’re suggesting their Mini Pizza, which, for the sub-six dollar price, includes two toppings (anything you choose will do you right)—and a buck-and-a-half more buys you a fresh green salad on the side, too. And if you’re really budget-conscious, but still think you deserve a chance with pizza greatness, there’s always the venerable Pizza Bread, which flies in under four bucks and is just as tasty and fulfilling as pairing your stomach up with slices of the real deal. Furthermore, the family-friendly atmosphere includes video games for the kids and a sizable outdoor dining area where you’ll find elderly folks seated just within earshot of college students, all congregating under one roof for the united love of pizza. Hey, we can’t blame ’em! (Waleed Rashidi)
Warehouse Pizza, 2340 “D” St., La Verne, (909) 593-2714; www.warehousepizza.net.