It is forcast to be Clear at 7:00 PM PDT on March 27, 2015

Fred and the world’s best classic pizza

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 | Posted by

BY CHRIS SMITH/The Press Democrat

Fred Poulos, the community-engaged owner of Mombo’s Pizza in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, is back from Las Vegas and the International Pizza Expo.

A highlight was the world pizza bake-off. Fred didn’t enter, but he got a kick out of seeing the Best Traditional Pizza award go to a Santa Cruz/Bay Area pizzeria chain called Pizza My Heart.

Fred opened the first Pizza My Heart with former partner Keith Holtaway in Capitola in 1981. Their East Coast-inspired pizza was a hit, and so was the artwork that Fred used in his decor and promotional materials.

Rather than come right out and claim to be making New York-style pizza, thus risking the wrath of displaced New Yorkers leery of any pizza made much west of the New Jersey Turnpike, Fred decorated Pizza My Heart with his photographs of New York street characters.

One day a cartoonist named Awest came in for a slice, then told Fred he loved his pizza and also his street portraits. He proposed that he draw caricatures of some of the people in the photos.

Fred liked the idea, and he loved the cartoons that Awest drew. Soon, most of Pizza My Heart’s ads and promotional materials featured a cartoon character wearing a porkpie hat and Raybans.

Fred left the business in 1989 and his partner later sold it to the current owners. Fred came to Sonoma County and in 2002 opened Mombo’s Pizza across from SRJC in Santa Rosa. He expanded to Sebastopol three years later.

And he brought back the cartoon character now firmly identified as the face of Mombo’s.

Fred didn’t compete in the great pizza-making challenge in Vegas last week, but he was happy for a chef from Pizza My Heart – now a 21-store  restaurant chain – to win the Best Traditional Pizza prize with a classic creation of pepperoni and portobello mushrooms.

Fred also didn’t mind noticing an online comment from someone who read about the award on the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Website. The post says, “If  you want a original Pizza My Heart pizza you have to drive to Sebastopol, CA where the original owner has Mombo Pizza with the same old cartoons.”

  • butch

    Had Mombos 1 time when they came to Sebatopol an when I picked a slice up everything fell off it. Couldn’t really tell you if was good or not. Every piece was like that!!

  • local sebas pizza lover

    I am originally from the east coast, and like many, love a good pizza…I have been to Mombo Pizza, and its good…but the pizzas are made from different chefs – which is not a problem…what if I want a pizza from Fred? Does he still make pizzas?

  • Lee

    Making great pizza is certainly noteworthy but to be community-engaged and make great pizza is a treasure for the community.

  • Pete Iodence

    Hmmmm, as a food lover and pizza finatic I am intrigued. Now, do they have the same pizza ingredients as the award winner from Las Vegas and is on the menu. Cause I want to order the Pepperoni and Portabello Mushroom Large, getting hungry just thinking about it. This is the best local marketing anybody could possibly ask for.

  • Dave Troop

    to butch…..

    yes, same thing happens to me no matter where I get my pizza when I hold the slice upside-down!

  • Eric

    Fred is a cool guy, knows the business and is a definite asset for all of us here in Sonoma County to enjoy. Great pizza!! Between Mombo’s 2 locations & La Vera’s one we can easily be a 10 minute drive to get a great pizza. We check Mombo’s website all the time for the specials they offer. Please notice that anytime you see Fred, he is always smiling.

  • http://peter.mrozik@gmail.com Peter

    I love Mombo’s – great NY-ish style pizza.

  • Dar

    Mombo’s FTW!!! Great pizza and great employees!

  • Winslow

    I am from the East Coast – Brooklyn and NJ – and I find Mombo’s to be the best pizza in town here in Santa Rosa. No question about it. My family and I get takeout there once a week, I’d say. But, I don’t understand why pizza is so bloody expensive here in Calif. – $20-plus for what’s $15 in NJ. Moreover, I don’t understand why Mombo’s itself – the restaurant, I mean – is left to be so ugly and uninviting. I think Mr. Poulos is sitting on a goldmine: He ought to find a place where families could go and eat pizza in comfort and with a bit more style, enjoy some beer with it, hang out, have a low-cost night out. Sure, the place on Mendocino Ave. is aimed mainly at college kids, but perhaps there is another, larger venue that could be launched that was more pleasant and had a better atmosphere. If anyone’s interested, the model I have in mind is Star Tavern, in Orange, NJ, which draws people from all over. It is a simple place in an old neighborhood but the pizza is great, the people friendly, the beer cold, and the prices just right. Mombo’s could easily replicate such a place out here and, I bet, make a million. http://startavern.net

Blogger Spotlight

Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
email contact me    

Follow Us

facebook twitter googleplus pinterest rss