New York Heart in San Diego pizza


Pauly’s Pizza Joint serves up New York pizza By-the-Slice in San Diego”

Kyle Kenehan, Staff Photographer

There is a substantial difference between the towering skyscrapers lining New York’s horizon and the sunny California coastline, plainly obvious to the common viewer. Walking down the cement walkways in awe of the shadowy towers above, one could not possibly help but note the unique aroma of the Italian-inspired world-renowned flavor of the city: pizza, a delicacy often copied but not duplicated. How, then, could someone walking down Miramar Road, just south of Mira Mesa, sense the same smell, the same flavors, and the same pizza?

Just west of the road’s train tracks is a small eatery aptly named Pauly’s Pizza Joint, a pizza-by-the-slice hole-in-the-wall shop nearly indistinguishable between a liquor store and a Chinese buffet. Yet the establishment’s product makes this door stand out and above the rest, despite being nearly 2,800 miles from home.

“I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in an Italian area,” says the joint’s owner, Paul Franza, a transplant from the East Coast wooed to the West in the late 1980’s, “I grew up watching my great aunts and grandma making fresh pasta, sauce… Food is a part of our culture.”

With the help of his partner and girlfriend, MonaVi Aquino, Pauly’s Pizza Joint opened its doors in November 2011. “The reason I’m here and the reason this is all possible is her support and her help,” said Franza.

I had the pleasure of sitting down a few days ago to enjoy a couple slices and a soda. Laid out before me were two healthy portions of dough, cheese, and toppings. On one, the Buffalo Chicken, lay chunks of chicken nestled in soft dough doused in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and ranch dressing, sauces that exceed the missing traditional tomato sauce. This slice, a personal favorite, reminded me of a chicken wing on dough. The second slice was a little less daring, from their “Healthy Choice” menu: Italian pizza, with white ricotta and dried red bell peppers laid on top of a grassy green bed of spring spinach (“for the colors of the [Italian] flag,” exclaims Pauly himself).

Franza, whom the store takes its namesake, can be found in the corner of the rather small kitchen, hidden by glass storefront, tossing raw dough into the air. Every pie sold is hand-tossed, a pizza-making tradition that establishes his store with the credibility other San Diego shops lack. “It’s a rolling pin… that’s your cookie cutter, that’s your franchise, that’s sacrilegious,” he says, “I learned from this business: if you’re not spinning the pie with your hands from start to finish, it’s not the way it’s done.”

From the first bite, I can taste the integrity only pizza done right can give. My tongue was in ecstasy, absconded to a culinary nirvana where neither sting nor burn mattered. The sweetness of the ricotta cheese blended nicely with the salty bell peppers creating a lavish spread of flavor over my palette. The bite from the Buffalo’s hot sauce was cooled over evenly by the ranch dressing, with tender chicken grilled to perfection and spread across the doughy red plain like mountains across the Sedona desert.

But, Pizza this good always comes with a price, doesn’t it?

“We took this place over in a week. It was a crazy situation,” Franza explained. “We did everything ourselves, from the cosmetics to the repairs. That’s the one thing [everything aside of Pizza making] you don’t expect. ”

Despite the challenges, Paul Franza really has a good thing going. My overall experience here at Pauly’s Pizza Joint has been beyond my expectations for a quick by-the-slice pizza place, far above the impersonal pizza “Big-shots.” Friendly, outgoing staff fill the gaps of silence between my roommate, or my pizza, and me with anecdotes of the pictures adorning the walls, stories of Pauly’s family, or just getting to know their customers a little bit better in between bites of pizza. “And that is the reason we’re here: we’re trying to make the best pizza possible, make the customers happy.”

“If you have a favorite place, and you like the pizza, and you’re willing to expand and come up to Miramar, try the pizza,” Franza humbly interjects, “give it a shot.”
Filled and content, I do believe that a New York classic has found a home nestled in the heart of San Diego.

Pauly’s Pizza Joint can be found at 6780 Miramar Rd., Ste. 105, Just behind the Carl’s Jr., west of the train tracks, about 4.0 miles west of the 15 freeway.