Eating Out: Fresno restaurants put creative twists on pizza

May 12, 2014 

Pizza fries at Popolo's Pizza in Fresno.

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Pizza is pizza, right?

Not in Fresno. People on the pizza scene have been getting creative, introducing pizza fries, pizza dogs and an Asian pizza with ginger peanut sauce. There's also a few new places to get pizza in town.

The pizza fries are a "secret menu" item at Popolo's Pizza at 6775 N. Blackstone Ave., and the brainchild of a local 26-year-old rapper who goes by "Halo the Human."

Halo, whose real name is Donell Page — his rapper friends dubbed him Halo because he didn't cuss — really loves pizza. He hosts monthly "pizza parties" for adults, combining music promotion with his love for the pie.

Pizza fries are exactly what they sound like: French fries, topped with pepperoni and mozzarella and cheddar cheese and baked so the cheese gets gooey. It's served with a side of sauce.

Page didn't invent pizza fries. He learned about them at the Las Vegas Pizza Expo and asked Popolo's if they could make them. They said yes and Page posted pictures of them on his Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr social media accounts. All of a sudden, Popolo's was getting lots of requests for pizza fries.

"If our customers want something special and we can do it, we will always do it for them," says Popolo's owner Tyler Greene.

A big plate of pizza fries — which can be made vegetarian — costs $8.95 or $4.95 during happy hour, 3-6 p.m. every day.

Richie's

Richie's Pizza & Hot Dogs opened last month at 844 E. Olive Ave. The little pizza joint — and I do mean little, it's only 300 square feet — opened in the former Scoop's ice cream shop.

Richie's sells slices of New York-style pizza — big floppy slices with a thin crust — starting at $4, and it just recently began selling whole pies.

"It's as close to New York pizza as you can get in Fresno," owner Richie Shields says.

The sauce is a little sweeter than most places and Shields uses bottled water in the dough. It's been said — who knows if it's true or not — that New York City tap water is the key to the good pizza there. Shields doesn't have access to that, but he does use bottled spring water, which he says makes for a better crust.

Richie's also sells beef hot dogs and spicy sausages with all kinds of toppings.

There's a pizza dog on the menu "for people who can't decide between pizza or hot dogs," he says. It's spicy Italian sausage with Richie's homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni and baked in the oven so the cheese gets all melty. The pizza dog is one of Richie's top sellers.

One thing that makes Richie's different than most other pizza places in Fresno is that it sells slices into the wee hours of the morning. It's open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and until 10 p.m. on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, Richie's opens at 11 a.m., but it closes at 3:30 a.m. the next day.

With 10 bars within three blocks, Richie's does lots of business with people looking for late-night munchies on the weekends or needing some time to sober up.

More details are available at facebook.com/RichiesPizzaanddogs.

Zamore'

Zamore' Mobile Pizzeria also got up and running recently, serving its slices at various late-night Tower spots. The bright red pizza truck soon will be adding more locations and mealtimes. Keep tabs on them at www.facebook.com/zamorefoodtruck to find out where they'll be.

Father and son team Steve and Sean Duquette first stuck a toe in the food truck scene about a year ago.

But it took longer than expected to get the investment they needed to convert their 1977 taco truck into a pizza truck. The pair sawed off the end of the truck and installed a 1,000-pound pizza oven, doing most of the work themselves.

The delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Sean says, as they spent the extra time fine tuning their pizza recipes.

Now you can get slices of cheese, pepperoni, veggie or a combination with lots of toppings on it for $3 to $5. Zamore' also has a Thai fusion slice that has ginger peanut sauce and is cooked with chicken, cheese and serrano peppers. After it's out of the oven, it's topped with green onions, teriyaki sauce and an Asian slaw with vegetables and peanuts in it.

7-Eleven pizza

An unexpected retailer is selling whole pizzas, too: 7-Eleven stores.

The stores began selling the hot pizza last September and apparently it's been quite popular with customers, a spokeswoman says. A large pizza sells for $5.55 and a large deluxe meat for $6.99.

Buy a 2-liter of soda and the price drops to $4.55 and $5.99. You can find it in 7-Eleven stores that carry hot food.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on www.fresnobeehive.com.

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