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Venice Pizza House does it old-school delicious

The crust is thicker than New York and thinner than Chicago

The cheese pizza at Venice Pizza House
The cheese pizza at Venice Pizza House
Place

Venice Pizza House

3333 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

The nature of journalism, even food writing, is to report “news,” not “olds.” The result is that foodies and food writers will often focus on the next food trend or new eating spot at the expense of places that have done a good job for a long time.

Case in point: Venice Pizza House in Normal Heights, which has been serving old-school American-style Italian food since 1954. Other than the big-screen TV on the back wall, it looks pretty much what I imagine it looked like when it opened during the Eisenhower era, complete with Naugahyde booths.

Open since 1954. The only that has changed are the cars parked in front.
Venice Pizza House and its old-school interior
They make own sausage and serve it surrounded in a tangy tomato sauce.

When TripAdvisor came out with a big press release a few years back suggesting that San Diego was the best pizza city in the U.S., Venice Pizza House wasn’t mentioned. I understand why. It’s not in a trendy area like North Park or a touristy area such as the Gaslamp or La Jolla. Although it’s on El Cajon Boulevard with easy freeway access to 805 and 15, no one is going to know about it unless they are driving along El Cajon Boulevard or their grandpa introduced them to it.

But Venice Pizza House’s pies are wonderful. The crust is thicker than New York-style and thinner than Chicago crust. It’s fluffy without being doughy and has a nice crispness. I like that the toppings are put under the final layer of cheese. It allows the flavors of salty pepperoni or anchovy to blend in with the pie. And I like the fact that they serve pies with anchovies — it’s true old school.

This is the type of place where Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton might have gone after bowling to split a mushroom/pepperoni pie ($15.65) and a large antipasto ($8.95) dripping with oil-and-vinegar dressing that must be sopped up with the crusts.

There are some concessions to modern tastes. I doubt pesto sauce was on the menu back in 1954. Ditto the fettuccine Alfredo, an old-school dish that had its heyday in 1984.

Sometimes a place that is good at pizza isn’t as good at pasta and vice versa. That’s not the case here, where the tangy marinara and meat sauces taste like there’s an 80-year-old woman from Naples in the back watching over it. This is the type of place where you go if you’re craving spaghetti and meatballs ($15.50) or, my favorite, spaghetti and homemade sausage ($15.50). Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and perfect with the garlic bread.

As late as the 1980s, there was a restaurant like this in every neighborhood. As people discovered the joys of Italian cuisine as enjoyed in Italy, not New York, they started ordering caprese instead of meatballs. I’m grateful that American taste buds have evolved to appreciate authentic Italian, but Venice Pizza House is one of the few places serving pizza like the good old days.

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The cheese pizza at Venice Pizza House
The cheese pizza at Venice Pizza House
Place

Venice Pizza House

3333 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

The nature of journalism, even food writing, is to report “news,” not “olds.” The result is that foodies and food writers will often focus on the next food trend or new eating spot at the expense of places that have done a good job for a long time.

Case in point: Venice Pizza House in Normal Heights, which has been serving old-school American-style Italian food since 1954. Other than the big-screen TV on the back wall, it looks pretty much what I imagine it looked like when it opened during the Eisenhower era, complete with Naugahyde booths.

Open since 1954. The only that has changed are the cars parked in front.
Venice Pizza House and its old-school interior
They make own sausage and serve it surrounded in a tangy tomato sauce.

When TripAdvisor came out with a big press release a few years back suggesting that San Diego was the best pizza city in the U.S., Venice Pizza House wasn’t mentioned. I understand why. It’s not in a trendy area like North Park or a touristy area such as the Gaslamp or La Jolla. Although it’s on El Cajon Boulevard with easy freeway access to 805 and 15, no one is going to know about it unless they are driving along El Cajon Boulevard or their grandpa introduced them to it.

But Venice Pizza House’s pies are wonderful. The crust is thicker than New York-style and thinner than Chicago crust. It’s fluffy without being doughy and has a nice crispness. I like that the toppings are put under the final layer of cheese. It allows the flavors of salty pepperoni or anchovy to blend in with the pie. And I like the fact that they serve pies with anchovies — it’s true old school.

This is the type of place where Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton might have gone after bowling to split a mushroom/pepperoni pie ($15.65) and a large antipasto ($8.95) dripping with oil-and-vinegar dressing that must be sopped up with the crusts.

There are some concessions to modern tastes. I doubt pesto sauce was on the menu back in 1954. Ditto the fettuccine Alfredo, an old-school dish that had its heyday in 1984.

Sometimes a place that is good at pizza isn’t as good at pasta and vice versa. That’s not the case here, where the tangy marinara and meat sauces taste like there’s an 80-year-old woman from Naples in the back watching over it. This is the type of place where you go if you’re craving spaghetti and meatballs ($15.50) or, my favorite, spaghetti and homemade sausage ($15.50). Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and perfect with the garlic bread.

As late as the 1980s, there was a restaurant like this in every neighborhood. As people discovered the joys of Italian cuisine as enjoyed in Italy, not New York, they started ordering caprese instead of meatballs. I’m grateful that American taste buds have evolved to appreciate authentic Italian, but Venice Pizza House is one of the few places serving pizza like the good old days.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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