I have to be honest and convey that when I heard there was another pizza joint opening in Encinitas, I questioned the sanity of the proprietors. My initial thoughts were along the lines of, “OK, don’t be so judgmental … dig a little and see what their angle is and maybe, just maybe, there is something different about this one.”
Well, I did and there is — Mr. Moto Pizza has one of the best New York City-style slices outside of NYC, and certainly in this area.
I can’t claim to be an expert on NYC but am familiar with the general characteristics of a large hand-tossed thin crust, sold in wide slices to go. The crust is usually thick and crisp only along its edge, yet soft, thin, and pliable enough beneath its toppings to be folded in half to eat, which is one of the great pleasures of the NYC-style slice.
It evolved in the United States in the early 1900s and is derived from the Neapolitan-style pizza made in Italy. And for me, there needs to be a certain element of grease involved … enough so that unless caution is taken, you will drip some on your shirt or lap. I’m not eating a slice in any clothing where that would matter. Either plain cheese or pepperoni are the only slice choices for toppings in my opinion, though don’t hold me to that.
My first bite into a Mr. Moto pepperoni slice came just before I started my 101.5 KGB interview with owner Gibran Fernandez (or Mr. Moto, as he is known) and his brand manager, Jorge Moreno. The slice pictured above was sitting on my gig case and I could not wait and it just looked so beautiful. I gave it a little fold and bit into this slice of NYC pizza perfection.
I needed a moment to gather my thoughts, and Gibran and Jorge completely understood. I’m certain they have seen the same reaction hundreds of times at their eight locations around San Diego. I then lavished praise on their accomplishment throughout the interview that is airing this week.
The interview was a blast with Mr. Moto, and while we were talking, I kept glancing up at the menu board and its intriguing items, like the Meatball Hero, Stromboli, Calzone, Wings, Garlic Knots and Stuffed Knots. And that was only one of the boards. The other included Spaghetti and Meatballs, Vodka Sauce Penne, Chicken Pesto Penne and a House and Caesar Salads.
Being the meatball freak I am, I had to get the Meatball Hero to go and had every intention on saving it for dinner. Good intentions tend to fly out the window when meatballs and bread are sitting next to me driving home. The Hero was half-devoured by the time I pulled in the driveway and, well, I finished it off a short time later. Yeah, it’s pretty darn good.
But this is a pizza joint at its core, offering 10 varieties of large specialty white pies with homemade garlic paste and five more large specialty red pies with homemade marinara sauce. You can also build your own pie in three sizes and there are several by-the-slice options, including a “slice pie” that lets you combine any eight slices. Oh, I like that option.
They keep dessert options simple at Mr. Moto with NY Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Chocolate Cake and Cannoli.
There is a quirky vibe at Mr. Moto that adds some fun to the really solid menu offerings. Check out the website for a look at some of their signature videos. Mr. Moto himself stars in a lot of them and he is quite the character. But besides that, he has brought another pizza place to Encinitas, confident enough in what he is doing to generate a buzz and make it work.
My hunch after my initial skepticism is that he is well on his way to doing that as it’s become my go-to slice joint and I will be eating my way through their menu soon.
Mr. Moto Pizza opened its Encinitas location on Oct. 6 and, besides carryout and delivery options, it has seating on the sidewalk on Coast Highway. The restaurant is located at 615 S Coast Hwy 101 and online at www.mrmotopizza.com.