As I sat down for a slice and a beer at Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store in Newport Beach, the only sound I could hear was “CRUNCH, CCC-CRUNCHHHHHH.” As an insane mastication-misophonia sufferer, the noise made me cringe so hard I slid off my shiny red barstool. Thankfully, it wasn’t coming from a fellow patron’s mouth, but rather from a delivery truck slowly backing into the bustling restaurant’s front window. The scene called to mind the one in Airplane! in which the plane crashes through the airport window from a misdirection on the tarmac: “The forklift? It’s over there!”
Despite the shakeup outside—in which the word pizza was completely wiped from the lettering, but the window thankfully stayed intact—business continued as usual inside. Pizza is the food of locavores; rarely do people travel outside their ZIP codes for a slice, often settling for mediocrity and the predictable, all in the name of ooey-gooey convenience. But Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store is a whole other beast. Its pizza of the month for November included mashed potatoes, turkey and cranberry—an Instagrammer’s Thanksgiving-tryptophan-induced dream.
December’s specialty is no different. This month’s square masterpiece was inspired by managing partner Trevor Kotchek’s recent trip to Italy. Kotchek, composed for a man who just had his building defaced by a rookie driver, slides the behemoth across the table and declares, “This is the Roscioli Pie.” It’s named after the historic market and restaurant in Rome, a food-lover’s dream destination.
Offered by the pie or al taglio (by the slice), the Roscioli shows off a rugged terrain of house-made mozzarella, globs of fresh green pesto, and heirloom tomatoes that have been sundried, all on a delightfully toothsome 24-hour crust. “Our kitchen manager, Bryon Morales, has been making this pesto for years,” Kotchek notes. “It was time we got it on the menu.”
I fold a slice as though it’s a wallet and chomp down on the girthy bite. The fresh Burratta-like cheese and walnutty pesto go straight to my soul. The smell has me grinning ear-to-ear.
The pie is also a charity effort: Sgt. Pepperoni’s will donate 100 percent of the cost of your Roscioli ($27 for the large, $8.50 for the 14-inch version, or by the slice as part of a meal deal) to Bracken’s Kitchen, a nonprofit group that provides meals for those who need it most. The eatery will also be collecting cash donations. “It’s the very core of Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store, and we’re happy to be able to support the people who may not have enough to eat,” says Kotchek.
Sgt. Pepperoni’s recently revamped its beer taps, adding an incredible list of local independent breweries and an excellent selection of imported wine. Considering softball teams pony up to the bench-style seating after games, it’s refreshing to see one small business support other small businesses. I opt for a Chapman Crafted pilsner, as the floral, cracker-dry beer is surely the perfect match for any pizza (and don’t call me Shirley).
Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza Store, 2300 SE Bristol St., Ste. F, Newport Beach, (949) 852-9500; sgtpepps.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening this June!