A friendship that started nearly 20 years ago at Fresno State has led to new ownership at Double Play Pizzeria. The restaurant operates on this friendly idea: Families should be able to enjoy its pizza, pasta, salads and subs without going broke.
“For us, it’s all about affordability,” said Darrell Dahlberg, one of three co-owners. “We want people to think, ‘This is our pizza place.’ ”
Take, for example, the prices on pizzas with unlimited toppings. They range from $4.99 for an eight-inch personal pizza to $16.99 for an extra large 16-inch pizza.
Dahlberg and his twin brother, Dwayne, and their longtime friend Richard Sponholz took over Double Play on Mother’s Day this year. The restaurant — at Gettysburg and Willow avenues — is in its 23rd year.
The Dahlbergs and Sponholz met while living in the same apartment complex as business majors at Fresno State. The brothers are from Fresno, and Sponholz is from Fairfield.
All three earned degrees from the university’s Craig School of Business.
“Bulldog born. Bulldog bred,” Darrell Dahlberg said.
Dwayne Dahlberg added: “This is what we dreamed about doing when we were going to Fresno State.”
All three also have master’s degrees in business administration.
They’re proud to call themselves owners of a small business. “We would never open up a place for someone else,” Darrell Dahlberg said. “We wanted to do it ourselves with our own money. This is our future.”
The Dahlbergs and Sponholz all worked at pizza restaurants in their younger years, and they never lost what Darrell calls “a passion for pizza.”
Double Play offers three types of crust (original, butter cheese and butter garlic) and three types of sauce (tomato, barbecue and garlic alfredo). Gluten-free crust is available.
Guests can choose from 19 toppings, including sausage, salami, bacon, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, broccoli and spinach.
The menu also includes several specialty pizzas. The most popular is the “Grand Slam (The Works).” It features pepperoni, ham, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, onions, green bell peppers and olives.
The new owners added “Pizzeria” to Double Play’s name to reflect new menu items — such as expanded pasta choices. Pasta dishes are spaghetti ($4.99), spaghetti with meatballs ($5.99) and lasagna ($6.99).
In addition, Double Play recently added a new sub sandwich — the Ground Out. It’s made with salami, turkey, tri-tip, cheese and assorted veggies. Six-inch subs are priced at $5.99 and 12-inch subs are $7.99.
For guests watching their carbs, Double Play offers several salads ($2.99 for small, $5.99 for large). The Chicken Caesar is the most popular.
On the beverage front, Double Play has expanded its beer choices to include craft beers along with domestic labels. Darrell Dahlberg said they want to feature locally-produced craft beers and are buying from House of Pendragon Brewing Co. in Sanger.
Listening to guests — and what they would like to see on the menu — is important to the new owners. Sometimes, those guests can be close to home.
For example, Dwayne Dahlbrg’s wife, Loni, suggested that Double Play serve wine. “If a husband is going to have a beer, a wife might like a glass of chardonnay or merlot,” Darrell Dahlberg said. A glass of wine is $3, a bargain compared to some other restaurants.
The Dahlbergs and Sponholz believe in running a community-oriented business. “People support us, and we need to make sure that we give back,” Dwayne Dahlberg said.
To that end, Double Play sponsors a youth soccer team at Sierra Vista Elementary School in Clovis and provides a free pizza dinner to the families of Sierra Vista students recognized with a school award.
The restaurant also discounts pizzas sold by students in Clovis and Fresno as fundraisers.
Furthermore, Double Play is a sponsor of the Fresno Monsters, an amateur ice hockey team. The Dahlbergs attended Bullard High School with Jason Rivera, general manager and head coach of the team.
Another sport — football — is a mainstay at Double Play. The restaurant features six big-screen televisions, offers NFL Sunday Ticket coverage and gives away trips to Las Vegas each week during football season.
A hometown touch of football excitement is provided by members of Fresno State’s marching band, who regularly gather at Double Play.
Dwayne Dahlberg works full time at the pizzeria while his brother and Sponholz have other jobs. Darrell Dahlberg is a sales representative for Y101 KWYE-FM, and Sponholz is a retail assistant manager.
All three put in many hours at Double Play.
“Every ounce of our extra time beyond family and work goes into this place,” Darrell Dahlberg said.
Double Play Pizzeria is at 2794 Willow Ave., No. 109. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (559) 291-1144. The restaurant has a website and is on Facebook.