I posted on Friday about the kerfluffle over the article by Debbie Arrington in the Bee about the opening of Trick Pony in the space formerly occupied by Tuli Bistro. One of the partners, Rick Lobley, who is responsible for the design and buildout aspect of the restaurant, was quoted as saying, “I’m tired of driving two hours to get really good pizza. It will be a different style of pizza…We’re going back to the way they made pizza 1,000 years ago, but with fresh regional ingredients (instead of imported), then incorporate good stuff from living in this area.”
I read it in the Thursday Bee and tossed off a quick post, which was linked on Facebook, and garnered comments, both with my point and against my point. Yes, it was a sarcastic post, which I have no problem writing. I’m not justifying myself, just stating a fact when I say that this article was the topic of conversation among local pizza fans before I wrote this, with everyone I talked to echoing my opinion.
However, I know what it’s like to get heat on social media (and recently, in print) and I cringed at some of the comments, so I decided to ask Paul Caravelli, the new chef, if he wanted to talk about Pizzagate. He replied that Rick Lobley would like to be at our meeting, too, and Stan Moore, chef of Capital Dime attended as well.
I arrived to a hearty handshake from Caravelli, a frosty reception from Lobley, and silence from Moore. Partner Melissa Sanchez was also there, but didn’t really pipe in (except to call the controversy overly dramatic). After what I wrote and the general discussion on the internet the gamut of greetings made perfect sense.
Caravelli is a spike-haired redhead (he quippped that he looks like most guys in Northern Italy), Moore has the de rigeur chunky black glasses and tattoos that adorn many local restaurant peeps, and Lobley, sporting a pink checked shirt, could have rolled in from Granite Bay (holy crap I just now checked his Facebook and I swear I didn’t know he lived there before I wrote this!)
I got about 20 minutes on tape, some of which I transcribe below. The conversation ranged off the pizza topic, but I have decided to stick with that topic. Everything was exactly transcribed, and although I cut it for length, I did not leave out anything relating to pizza that would cast anything in a different light. Caravelli recorded the convo as well.
Becky: I’ve gotten a lot of shit in social media for what I write, so I thought that given that things have blown up on social media that you might want to talk about it, that’s why I contacted Paul, so if you don’t want to that’s what the point of this is. I wanted to make sure that you wanted to make some kind of response to what has come out of that Sacramento Bee piece about pizza.
Rick: The Bee takes things out of context they make it whatever works best for them. They like to stir up shit, controversy, they never support anything in this town. Name one place they support.
Becky: …uuhh. I want you guys to run this.
Rick: We’re doing our own thing. We don’t have any plan against any other specific place in town. We never intentionally disrespected chefs. I think Sacramento has a lot of great chefs in it.
Becky: Let me say then, that since you feel like it was out of context I’m just going to transcribe this, and if I feel like there’s something really off topic I’ll leave it out but I don’t want you to think I’m shaping it another way.
Rick (to Paul): Like she’s doing it right now
Becky: How? I’m not! Sometimes if you interview people for two hours, you have to take things out of what they say.
Rick: Are we going to be here for 2 hours?
Becky: No. Let’s get to the point. Let’s get to roles, Paul, you’re the chef of Trick Pony. What were you doing before this?
Paul: Denver. I was [inaudible] in Denver.
Becky: Based in Sacramento?
Paul: No actually, I just got here about a month and a half ago.. .I just figured out where S street was.
Becky: And you’re (gesture to Rick) one of the partners in Capital Dime
Rick: Correct. And Ink. So I do design and build I’m not a chef.
Becky:You made the comments about the pizza.
Rick: What comments?
Becky: Where you were saying “I’m tired of driving two hours to have a good pizza”.
Rick: They asked me where my favorite pizza place was and I told them it’s in the city. So they asked the name of it and I said I don’t want to say. They asked why I want to do this kind of style here and I said I’m tired of driving two hours for good pizza. It’s not like I was saying there’s no good pizza here. Sacramento has great pizza. Onespeed, Hot Italian, we eat there at least once a week.
Paul: What we didn’t do is chime in and stop anybody from talking.
Rick: No. It doesn’t matter.
Paul: Let ‘em run.
Becky: You mean on social media.
Rick: If you go and look at the source of who sent the story out it was (person) from (local restaurant group – redacted by Foodways). She forwarded it to 30 people. So I hope she’s happy with herself.
Becky: I read the Bee and I read it and I was like “oh shit”. And thought “what about Masullo?”
Rick: What about it? They have good pizza. But it’s different stuff. We didn’t say anything derogatory about those other places. It wasn’t malicious. She [Arrington] just asked me like 3 or 4 questions like “what’s your favorite pizza places” “I’d rather not mention that” “well where is it?” “it’s out of town” it’s my preference and I’m entitled to it.
Becky: But do you see how saying how “we’re going to bring local ingredients” does seem like –
Rick: You know what local ingredients are in California? How far do you go to source local ingredients?
Becky: What do you mean?
Rick: What’s considered local?
Paul: We think tomatoes are better here than they are in [inaudible] we don’t have to get San Marzanos
Becky: No I’m saying the quotes seemed like you were saying “as opposed to these other people in Sacramento”.
Rick: That’s because they changed the context. It has nothing to do with that. I would never say that. That’s stupid.
Paul: That’s funny because nobody commented on me checking in on Facebook when I went to 3 pizza places 2 nights ago [Saturday]. I said it’s delicious, One Speed –
Becky: But was that in response? [to the Thursday article]
Paul: No I went to check out the competition, and nobody said a word because I said nice things.
These same points were reiterated a few times and then…
Becky: The point I was getting at is that everybody like Masullo, Hot Italian and Onespeed all source theirs locally and all have good cheese. It sounded like “we’re doing something different, we’re going to have local produce” but how is that different?
Rick: It’s not the local produce. It’s just different…like have you ever tried cheese before?
Rick: 50 or 100 of em, then all the sudden you get that one and you’re like “this is the one” type of thing. That’s what I was referring to.
Becky: Just speaking about the pizza specifically, what sets your pizza apart?
Paul: The cheese dude! (laughs)
Becky: Where are you guys getting this cheese!?
Rick: We’re not telling anybody. It’s a cheese farm.
Paul: The Italian blood running through my veins?
Rick: I don’t know, Stan is the cheese good?
Paul: He got mad at me for serving the cheese!
Rick: He ate his ball of cheese.
Stan: An extremely expensive variety of buffalo mozzarella.
Rick: Made by cows with golden horns.
Paul: The cheese is called the Midas Touch.
Stan: It is specialty imported for us. .
Becky: Anything else you want to say or that you want to say about your pizza? I’m looking forward to trying it.
Rick: I don’t know. To be honest it’s going to be based on the product. And the style of pizza we’re going to make probably won’t be what everybody likes but for certain people it will be what they want.
Paul: It’s going to be perfectly imperfect.
Becky: Neopolitan style?
Paul: Like you’re on the streets of Napoli at a café with people who are northern Italian and looks like me.
At this point it veered off topic for a few minutes and I directed it back.
Becky: People love the pizza around here and it seemed like you were like “there’s no good pizza here”.
Rick: Because that’s how they wrote it!
Paul: Is it wrong for someone to be proud of the product? There’s a lot to be transcribed form audio to paper.
Rick: If I didn’t like the pizza I wouldn’t spend my money at those places.
Paul: And nobody would open a restaurant without trying to be the best they ever were.
Rick: It makes no sense. And it’s like they said some shit about “oh we’re making pizza like [1000 years ago] and that’s what I told her: we’re going back and making it, the flour and stuff is stone ground. It’s like going back to the basics. He [Paul] doesn’t really agree because he said the pizzas were really sweet back then.
Paul: That’s Wikipedia talking.
Rick: I wasn’t here a 1000 years ago.
Then they very nicely asked me to come in and try the pizza. I demurred because it wouldn’t really be appropriate, but said that I look forward to coming in as a paying customer.
Rick: She’s scared. She’s like: I just came here to make you look like a dick.