Pizza for breakfast? Gimme a break. And yet…here it sits, before my very eyes. I stand gawping, Sunday mawnin’, bleary-eyed, even now, around 11.
I’ve gotten off the Blue Line trolley at this new stop that slices diagonally through two brand-new buildings at C and Park. City College. Spotted this guy through a window. Wow. He’s stretching something. From a little wad, he creates a bigger and bigger and thinner and thinner skein of — oh yeah — dough. He lays it down and spreads out a scoop of tomato base. Round and round. Art in the making. Now he sprinkles cheese and puts down ham, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, red and green peppers, tomatoes — and whack!? Now he reaches to a sauté pan and shakes out a bunch of…scrambled eggs?
This I must investigate. ’Specially as I’m starved. The pizza joint shares space with a convenience store they’ve opened in one of the platform-side shops. Whoa. It’s cavernous inside, with big aluminum air-conditioning ducts snaking around the ceiling.
But first, you pass this sign, “Pauly’s Pizza Station,” next to the counter to the left. And there, sitting on the glass display shelves, is the result of what the guy’s finishing off in the window. An actual scrambled-egg breakfast pizza, $2.50 a slice, or $5 for two slices and a drink. Gal, named TK, asks me what I’d like. Hmm. “Introducing Breakfast Pizza,” says the menu. It lists a whole bunch of pizzas, from the deluxe, the one I saw the guy — the actual Pauly — making, to “all-meat” (egg, ham, bacon, and sausage), to “the Italian Flag,” (with roasted red peppers, white ricotta cheese, and fresh green spinach), to vegetable (egg, mushroom, red and green bell peppers, tomato, onion, spinach, artichoke). They’re all $16–$19 per pizza pie, or $2.50 a slice.
Then I see they have more breakfast deals filled with the same eggy alternatives, including calzones ($7.50). Looks like Pauly’s on to an egg roll here, heh-heh. ’Course, I know the best deal is probably the two slices and a drink. But a big puffy calzone seems easier to face at breakfast time.
“It’ll be about 15 minutes,” says TK. “Pauly makes everything from scratch.”
“No problemo. It’s Sunday. I’ve got time.”
I step outside to the trolley platform so I can watch Pauly, through the window. He’s kneading out dough again. This time, though, he cuts off half. He starts to lay down the goodies. Ham, bacon, peppers, tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms, and that pile of scrambled eggs. Then he folds the top over, seals it with his thumbs, roll-cuts the edge, and slides it into his Baker’s Pride oven.
“That mine?” I mouth, pointing at it and then myself.
I like the fact that there’s a Pauly here. And that he makes these things from scratch, doesn’t just off-load a thousand factory-cooked frozen pizzas from some truck’s freezer-trailer. I start reading the menu’s back flap. “Welcome to my studio and gallery,” it says. “Dough is my canvas, the prep table is my palette, full of color. The display case is my gallery…containing the creativity of art, the love of family and friends, and the passion of flavor.”
Hmm. Definitely seems like a guy who cares. Five minutes later, I’m sitting at one of the two high tables. I’ve just bitten off the corner of my calzone. Hot! I puff its cheeks in and out, like a fire bellows, so it blows out steam like a locomotive. Man. This is one caliente crusty pocket. As soon as it’s cool enough I chomp in — to eggs, but then, the farther in you go, the more you hit the herby Italian sausage, the pile of sliced olives, the bacon. The flavor gets richer and richer. Splot of hot sauce helps, too.
This is beautiful. Oh my, that golden crusty skin. “I’m an artist,” says Pauly. “I struggled for years, sculpting, painting. Now I’ve made pizza-making my art.”
Turns out he was born in Brooklyn, grew up in New Jersey, and has become part of this new wave of pizza-pie bakers from back East who are serious about the handmade, thin-crust culture they were brought up on.
Guess the buzz is out, because this place is getting more crowded the more I hang around. Amazing for Sunday morning.
“This is the best pizza place in San Diego, period,” says Dylan. He manages the Starbucks across the tracks. “And I include Bronx Pizza.”
Wow. That’s praise. People say “Bronx” when you ask which is the best around town.
Behind Dylan, gal named Chauntae waits to get some spicy chicken pizza with her mom and her friend Monet. Her mom insisted they come. All the way from EastLake. On a Sunday morning.
And then, behind them, if you can believe, this gal Debbie is lined up for a grilled chicken pizza with ranch dressing and bacon. She’s driven all the way down from Rancho Bernardo.
“It’s flattering,” Pauly says. “But it’s hard work.” He says he’s been in seven days a week since he opened in January.
“I’ve lost ten pounds, but I’m happy,” he says.
Oh, man. If I could just do that. I pack up three slices to take home to Carla: the chicken-bacon-ranch, the deluxe, and the tomato, garlic, and pesto. She loves pesto.
I finish off the rest, just for my own, uh, pizza mind.
The Place: Pauly’s Pizza Station, 1050 Park Boulevard (in City College trolley station), 619-231-0300
Type of Food: Italian
Prices: Scrambled-egg deluxe breakfast pizza (ham, bacon, sausage, mushroom, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggs), all-meat (egg, ham, bacon, and sausage), the “Italian Flag” (white pie with roasted red peppers, white ricotta cheese, spinach), the vegetable (egg, mushroom, bell peppers, tomato, onion, spinach, artichoke), all $16–$19 per pizza pie, or $2.50 a slice, or $5 for two slices and a drink; calzones, $7.50; Greek salad, with pepperoncini, green and black Kalamata olives, feta cheese, $5.50; meatball Parmesan sandwich, $6.50; stromboli (rolled pizza crust enclosing cheese, pepperoni, onion, ham), $7.50; New York cheesecake dessert, $3.50
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. Monday–Friday; 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. Saturday–Sunday
Buses: 2, 5, 7, 15, 20, 30, 50, 150, 923
Nearest Bus Stop: Beside City College trolley stop, 11th and C
Trolleys: Blue line, orange line
Nearest Trolley Stop: City College, Park Boulevard and C