From its décor to its secret recipes, Pizza Casa offers its customers an unrivaled dining experience.
Tucked into a small shopping strip on Pacific Highway parallel to Interstate 5, stepping into Pizza Casa is like stepping into a time machine. Wood paneling lines the walls and red and white checkered cloths
cover the tables. One-of-a-kind light fixtures hang from the ceiling – and have since they were made in 1972.
“I haven’t changed the basic décor because most of my customers like it,” owner Dan Harris said.
Even when he added on to the restaurant, Harris maintained the wood paneling to keep the 1970s vibe.
In 2018 Pizza Casa, located at 12924 Pacific Highway SW, will celebrate its 60th year. Founded in 1958 by Nello Grassi and his wife Kathryn (Harris’ mother and stepfather), Pizza Casa dates to an era when Elvis Presley monopolized the airwaves and “Leave it to Beaver” was entering its second year on CBS.
Harris grew up in the restaurant. As a result he approaches its operations as more than “just a business” and sees diners as more than just customer. They’re family.
“Here everybody gets a hug,” Harris said.
“We’re into third and fourth generations now,” he said of diners who have eaten at Pizza Casa for decades. “It’s very fulfilling.”
Prior to owning the restaurant Harris worked in the corporate world. When it came time for his mom to retire Harris knew he couldn’t let the doors close, so he bought the restaurant in 1995.
“It’s always been in the family,” he said. “It’s in our blood.”
Since taking over Harris has maintained the restaurant’s charm but probably most important, he’s maintained its menu and the traditional recipes that originated from his grandmother.
It was her love for cooking and sharing food that inspired Harris’ stepfather to open Pizza Casa. Harris remembers being in his grandmother’s kitchen watching her cook and how food was always a part of family gatherings.
Now he delivers the same experience every night.
The two most popular dishes at Pizza Casa are the spaghetti and pizza – “nobody else makes a pizza like ours,” Harris said. The spaghetti recipe is 125 years old.
Harris also recommends the restaurant’s fried chicken, which takes 30 minutes to make because it is made to order, he said.
What makes Pizza Casa’s dishes better than the competition? A combination of fresh ingredients and family recipes from Tuscany that are so top secret even the chef and line cooks don’t get to see them.
Harris keeps all the recipes in a lockbox and only brings them out when necessary. He prepares the ingredient mixes and brings them to his cooks for preparation.
Because of its longevity in the community and its reputation as a welcoming, family-friendly business, the Lakewood City Council recognizes Pizza Casa as its August 2017 Business Showcase.