The pizza business is alive and well on the west side of town. If John and Toniann Leyva have anything to do with it, it will be for years to come.
The husband/wife team recently acquired Keller’s, which was formerly Safari Pizza at 821 W. F St, Oakdale. The family will continue to operate the business as Guarino’s Pizzeria, Toniann’s maiden name.
Husband John owns and operates Beyond the Bunz in Salida, specializing in hamburgers. It was an establishment Toniann had hoped they’d embark on together, but one which quickly became John’s baby.
“I knew that somewhere down the line, when I had the opportunity I was going to go for it and this is it,” Toniann said of the pizzeria.
Noting her Italian background and Brooklyn, New York roots, the wife and mother is excited to be back in the kitchen.
The combination of Toniann’s passion and John’s restaurant prowess aims to be a recipe of ‘third time is the charm’ for the pizzeria location.
“We’re opposites,” she said of herself and husband John. “I’m the one that jumps in and dies ‘cause I don’t know how to swim.”
John intends to guide his wife by helping to build the menu and the business, while Toniann embraces both the kitchen as well as creating a more family-inclusive pizzeria atmosphere.
The couple plans to offer a daily menu including pizza, pasta, meatballs, sandwiches, calzones, cheese bread and both bone in and bone out wings in varying flavors. They also offer a lunch special for the high school students of $3 per slice of pizza (pepperoni or cheese) and $1 sodas.
“The kids have been great and offer us really good feedback,” John said.
The couple first took over in late December just prior to the school’s Winter Break.
According to the couple the proximity of the location brings in approximately 100 student customers a day. An official grand opening of the pizzeria is planned for Jan. 15, complete with updated menu and interior remodel.
Being mindful of their new opportunity, the couple has made a variety of changes to the current pizza being served including fresh shredded cheese, a specialty sauce and fresh pizza dough. They also plan to offer a 28” pizza, catering to the family style of the establishment. Quality is the primary goal of all they intend to offer their clientele.
“If you’re not going to eat it, why would you feed it,” John stated honestly. “We’re hoping that the community accepts us and enjoys the pizza.”
The couple also looks forward to the feedback of the community to help them grow and better provide what their customers want.
“We also need to get out there and reach the community,” Toniann said of community involvement and partnerships. “Helping the community is a big thing with us.”