Located on 2888 Vista Boulevard in the D’Andrea Marketplace dotted with small businesses and major stores sits the True New York Pizza Co. The clean, modest-looking pizzeria has four booths, a few smaller tables, and a big screen TV next to the pizza ovens/open-air kitchen. It’s lunchtime and there is a steady flow of people in and out.
Although it seemed busy, the atmosphere was mellow, happy, and there was always a place to sit- a single man gave up his booth seat for a family of five and resettled at a table in the back. Owner Paul Erikson was hands on- constantly going back and forth between the kitchen and sitting space to make pizzas and deliver slices to the customers.
“This is an all or nothing place because no one will come in here for 20 minutes and then it’ll get busy,” says Erikson.
In the meantime, I try a Grandma slice and a BBQ Chicken one. The Grandma is a perfectly cooked thin crust pizza with rich-tasting tomato sauce, cheese and plum tomatoes of perfect proportions. The huge BBQ chicken slice came chocked full of pineapple, bacon, chunks of crispy chicken, red onion, and homemade BBQ sauce. It was full of flavor and original goodness.
Erikson has worked and managed pizzerias in the New York Area since 1980, but when the recession hit they decided to head out west and always liked the Reno-Sparks area. In 2009, the couple bought a house in Sparks and opened True NY Pizza Co. in January 2011.
“I had a feeling when I moved here that it was an up and coming area,” Erikson says. “The quality of life is better here.”
About choosing the location for the pizzeria in Sparks, Erikson says, “This is a beautiful shopping center and good demographics. This is a high density residential area with some commercial stores”. Although Erikson doesn’t do any advertising, he says that he gets most of his business from word-of-mouth, averaging about 10-15 regulars per day.
“I know most of our customers by first name, what they like to order and what mood they’re in,” Erikson adds. He noted that True NY Pizza Co. aims to get customers’ orders out within five minutes so they can enjoy a slice on their lunch break. In his mind, the key to business is to take it nice and easy when you can but work hard when you need to.
“It’s all about the food quality, convenience, and being a part of someone’s routine,” Erikson says. “Just like in New York.”
Turning to a guy eating pizza in the booth behind us, Erikson asks, “Frank, how long have you been coming in here?”
“I don’t know, how long have you been open?” Frank replied. “Five years? That’s about how long I’ve been here,” he added.
Growing up in New York and working in the pizza business since the 1980’s, Erikson appreciates bringing his roots to Sparks. “I’ve worked in many places and this truly is a neighborhood joint,” he says.
Erickson added that food is very personal and that even though it’s technically fast food, the customers want to know who they’re dealing with. “The customers are my good friends,” Erikson says and points to stained glass fixtures in the restaurant that a True NY Pizza Co. fan made.
“What I like about being in a small place is that the rent’s not going to kill you,” Erikson added about his Vista Boulevard location. “I just want to make the best product I can. I see so many places spending $1 million and then closing after six months. You have to play your own game. I try to do a few things well and keep it simple,” he says.
Simplicity and using quality ingredients are the key factors that you’ll find in these New York-style pizzas. The restaurant only sells one-size pizzas and by the slice, using quality ingredients made in-house when possible. “We make our own meatballs and sausage from scratch,” he says about what makes his pizza unique and original. “I make food that I like to eat, and I feed my family the same thing that I feed my customers,” says Erikson.
True NY Pizza Co. is open Monday through Saturday from 11a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Along with pizza, True NY Pizza Co. serves salads, pastas, calzones, and large cannolis.