For pizza enthusiasts, it’s not just about dough, sauce, and cheese; it’s about tradition, history, and that perfect combination of flavors. That’s precisely what Denino’s Pizzeria has been serving for almost a century in Staten Island, New York.
Now, after more than three years of meticulous planning, the cherished pizzeria has made its debut on the West Coast, specifically in Thousand Oaks, California, just north of Los Angeles. While it might be a bit of a drive for Southern California pizza fans, it’s undoubtedly worth it.
A Century-Old Legacy
Denino’s has a rich history dating back to 1923 when it began as a candy store on Staten Island. Over the years, it transformed into a pool hall, a bar, a sit-down tavern with Italian cuisine, and eventually, a pizzeria. For the most part of its existence, it remained a single-location gem, cherished by locals and pizza enthusiasts from New York and New Jersey alike.
In 2015, the journey of expansion commenced under the leadership of Mike Burke, a Denino family member, who added locations in Manhattan and coastal New Jersey before venturing all the way to the sunny shores of California.
From Staten Island to Thousand Oaks
The latest Denino’s outpost in Thousand Oaks opened its doors in April 2023. While it may be roughly 2,800 miles from the original, it has successfully replicated the essence and flavors of the celebrated pizzeria. Burke partnered with Gregory Leone, a California franchisee, to make this venture possible. Leone, a native New Yorker and longtime Thousand Oaks resident, had the right mix of passion and dedication, qualities that Burke considered crucial for this ambitious project.
Burke’s involvement was hands-on, with him spending three months in California to ensure that everything, from sourcing the right ingredients to perfecting the pizza-making process, was up to Denino’s standards. As Burke explains, “It’s got to be the right personality, the right work ethic.” His emphasis was not just on creating good pizza but on maintaining the authenticity that Denino’s is renowned for.
The Taste of Tradition
Denino’s Thousand Oaks mirrors the original in many ways. The “IN CRUST WE TRUST” signage remains a welcome sight for pizza lovers. The menu offers thin, crispy pizzas in various classic styles, such as the iconic margarita with marinara and vodka sauce pizzas. You can savor East Coast-style clam pies, alongside staples like pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom.
And if you’re in the mood for more than just pizza, the tavern side of the menu features delectable entrees like penne pasta with vodka sauce, baked ziti, and mouthwatering chicken parmes or meatball sandwiches. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert; the cannoli is a crowd-pleaser.
Why Thousand Oaks?
Some might wonder why Denino’s chose Thousand Oaks as its West Coast home. Leone, who frequently chats with customers at the ordering window, appreciates the slower pace of life compared to the hustle and bustle of New York. Burke echoes this sentiment, viewing Thousand Oaks as a peaceful enclave, akin to Staten Island. It’s a place characterized by quiet commutes, single-family homes, and a strong sense of family.
Burke points out that Los Angeles, with its abundance of eateries, might be a bit saturated. He believes that Thousand Oaks has its unique charm and doesn’t need to compete with the bustling metropolis. In fact, Burke and Leone are content with their current location and have no immediate plans to open another branch closer to the city. After all, people are willing to make the drive from LA to Thousand Oaks for a taste of Denino’s exceptional pizza.
In the world of pizza, where traditions and flavors define success, Denino’s Pizzeria has successfully extended its heritage from Staten Island to California. While it may be a bit of a road trip for some, the opportunity to experience a century-old pizzeria’s legacy is undoubtedly worth the journey. In Thousand Oaks, “IN CRUST WE TRUST” continues to be the mantra, and every slice is a testament to the enduring allure of Denino’s.