Straw Hat Pizza

The SO and I went to Round Table for pizza before I took her to the airport. We rarely go there, since it’s a 50-mile round trip from the house. I could pick up a pizza from there on one of my commuting days, but don’t. Instead we have a choice of the expensive Pizza Factory, Little Seizures, Domino’s, or homemade. The SO mentioned on our drive to Seattle that Round Table is her ‘new favourite pizza’. (i.e., the best pizza available in the area, for the price.) My friends and I ate a lot of RT pizza before cruising the boulevard, back in the day. But ‘new favourite pizza’ reminded me of Straw Hat.

I loved Straw Hat pizza when I was a kid. Organ Power Pizza had the awesome pipe organ (I’d always request Toccata And Fugue In D-Minor) and the animatronic mounted animal heads. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto was where the grown-ups liked to go. But as a child I thought Straw Hat had the best pizza. Not only that, but they had a projector so I could watch The Three Stooges and Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy and Abbot & Costello while I ate.

I moved away from San Diego in 1976. There wasn’t a Straw Hat in Lancaster. After I moved to L.A., I discovered there was near enough to the apartment to get one if I really wanted Straw Hat pizza that much; but not close enough to be convenient. So it’s been over three decades since I’ve been to one.

I wonder if their pizza is as good as when I was a kid? I wonder if their pizza is the same as when I was a kid, but worse because my tastes have changed? I wonder if they still show movie shorts and cartoons?

“Little Seizures”

Um… Stupid auto-correct! (Yeah, that’s the ticket. Auto-correct did it!)

Hell, take credit!
I thought it was brilliant!

Round Table is hands-down the best chain pizza, has been for years. Besides quality ingredients and excellent recipes, they’re very consistent. The others are either permanently kind of meh, or vary so much that you never know what you’re going to get - sometimes excellent, sometimes inedible.

I remember Round Table pizza from having it 35 years ago in Sacramento. Is it still a chewy, toothy crust with thick edges? If its the same stuff, it’s the ultimate pizza, and almost unique.

If you’re ever in the DFW area and want the same style, Mama’s Pizza is an almost identical pizza to the one I remember getting at Round Table.

However, there’s a regional chain in the Midwest called Puccini’s Smiling Teeth which makes outstanding pies. And in the New York City metro area there’s a chain called Umberto’s which is also excellent.

Straw Hat (IMO) was never really that good. Shakey’s was better, but they apparently expanded too quickly and then flamed out. There are supposed to be 60 stores left; but I haven’t seen one in years.

As a kid in the early-'70s, I had both Straw Hat and Shakey’s. I preferred Straw Hat.

Have you been to La Fiamma in Bellingham?

Yes, a classic case of corporate overdrive killing the business. My parents knew Shakey Johnson and had a small hand in getting him started in Sacramento. The local shop was always our preferred pizza place until the chain crashed. I don’t think there’s one left on the West Coast; IIRC, the last time I looked there were a few stores scattered in the Midwest.

I miss Round Table. Frankly, I miss pizza as it is understood by the rest of the world - they just don’t have a clue here, despite there being a pizza place every 74-1/2 yards all the way across the state.

Haven’t even heard of it! It’s hard to get the SO out of the house. When we do want to go gout for Italian, we go to Mambo Italiano in Fairhaven. I really love their antipasti.

I see from the La Fiamma menu that they have meatball pizza. I can’t remember who it was, but someone in my youth made a good pepperoni and meatball pizza. Meatballs > sausage.

I’m a Nevadan (hence the name) and I have found that it depended upon the location. Some of the Round Tables in Reno and Vegas were great; some were poopless. Also, there were some Sacramento that were great and some which were worthless.

I ask people and read the online reviews as I love pizza and I hate a bad one.

I’ve been to both of those. La Fiamma was good when I went, which was a few years ago, but they’re still in business, so there’s that. Liked Mambo Italiano also.

I worked at a Straw Hat in West L.A. (National and Sawtelle?) in 1981-82. It had been there for many years before that. The uniform was a plaid shirt and a straw hat. We could wear any kind of pants. I think that the location is still a pizza place but it hasn’t been a Straw Hat Pizza for quite a while.

It had a couple of projection tvs that would show cartoons during the day and sports at night. There was a mechanical horse for kids that cost a penny to ride and we had a jar of pennies to use for it so it was really free.

I worked at a Straw Hat Pizza Palace in Torrance from 1974-1976. They were owned at the time by Saga Foods, who also ran Stuart Anderson/Black Angus steakhouses, as well as holding the board concession at several universities (a co-worker mentioned that when she was living at LMU, she was one of several students who came down with scurvy, prompting Saga to offer more palatable choices at the salad bar).

Our uniform was a (polystyrene foam) “straw” hat and red-and-white striped shirt. The pizza was okay, but once I had my first thick crust pizza, I never looked back. Straw Hat ran the dough through a roller to obtain a standard thickness, then cut pizza “blanks” out of the resultant sheet. I never worked the ovens. As a scullery worker, I washed the trays, mixed the dough, shredded the cheese, and sliced the pepperoni and veggies.

In the dining room, in addition to the cartoons and movies, there was a stage that hosted, at various times, a sing-along pianist, and a piano and banjo duo. The dining room was big enough for a private area to be partitioned off, and on Tuesday nights a banjo class would come in and practice for a couple of hours. Listening to thirty banjos playing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” for two solid hours is a pretty good way to develop a drinking problem.

TBH, I would be astonished to see a Straw Hat pizza place again. Do they actually still exist?

I have gone to a few places as an adult that I used to frequent as youngster and the result has always been the same.

Over the years, the quality has degraded temenously. Today they are just awful.

I have to wonder if it could be me instead of the restaurant/pizzeria. But I’m certain that I remember the things about the food that made it great and those things definitely disappeared.

French fries are one of the biggest things. I wonder if there have been new laws passed that prevent them from using certain kind of oil that they used to use.

I know most people will feel revulsion at the idea of using Lard to cook fries. But they were the most delicious fries I had ever tasted. But not today. No Lard anywhere today.


Straw Hat Pizza locations

My first job was at a Straw Hat in San Jose in the early 80s. The place was always busy and the food was good. Just about everything was fresh-made, except the sauce. The dough was made and rolled on-site.

When one opened up a couple years ago near home in a busy shopping center, I was thinking it would be as good as in my youth. It was not. It was terrible - worse than frozen pizza. The industrial uniform crust must have been created somewhere else, and was dry and flavorless. We decided to give them another try a few months later, owing that first impression to them needing to get the formula down better. Nope - it was still bad, and they did not last long, closing about a year after it opened.

We do Round Table once in a while, and it is good, but we frequent a few local pizza places most of the time.

I think Shakey’s is still around, mainly in Southern California, but none near the original location in Sacramento.

The problem with naming a specific, one-location pizza place among the hundreds of thousands in the US is that (obviously) only residents and visitors within a short radius are likely to visit it.

The problem with trying to name the Greatest Pizza Place in [insert city or region here] is that such places tend to change over time - some have good days and bad, much less good management eras and bad.

But the real problem with naming GPP’s (and anyone who brings up Douglas Adams here gets a poke in the snot locker) is that pizza is subjective. We have been recommended to a dozen Absolute Best Pizza Places Around, No Question, Just LIke You Said You LIke It… and they are one more New England gooey, drippy, doughy, undercooked slopfest. I’m kind of past pizza age anyway but I do like a few slices now and then, and I’d love to find a California-style pizza place I could trust not to drench me in wet gooeyness.

A far-flung Round Table conforming to company recipes would be heavenly, even if RT is second to this place on the corner of something and something in Napa or San Jose or Fresno…

Amateur Barbarian: I’m so happy that I was able to provide a thread where you could post your opinion! I’m extremely gratified to have been of service! Do enjoy your day! :slight_smile: