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Dining Out: Gepetto's has carved a niche in Salt Lake dining

Published December 24, 2008 10:43 am

No lie -- the pizzeria is going strong after 38 years.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I like Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza … dipped in ranch dressing. There, I said it. While some people may cringe at the idea of such a strange combo, I find the sweet and salt play off each other very well. That is not to say I'll order that kind of pie outside the state. Rather, I like to think of it as a pizza choice made only by Utahns -- and Hawaiians.

One of the first places I ate the quirky pizza was at http://www.gepettospizza.info/" Target="_BLANK">Gepetto's years ago, so I felt a bit of nostalgia when I recently ate at the bohemian pizzeria, whose look hasn't changed much in 38 years.

Fake grape vines, Pinocchio tchotchkes and Christmas lights year-round in the dark-wooded room add to the kitschiness of the place. The '70s vibe is perked up by TVs, neon beer signs and live music most nights. Then there's "the vault" -- the private room for large parties.

Back in 1951, the space belonged to the H. Clawson Silver Co. and served as a mini bank for the area, and the vault contained safe-deposit boxes.

Nowadays, the vault has been sorely neglected. A dust-caked strand of burned-out Christmas lights winds around the room that seats about 10 to 12 people. The room is in serious need of some good light. On a recent evening, the only light came from one naked eco-bulb. Our group didn't know if we were there to eat or to be interrogated. Surely, the food would outshine the vault's uncomely appearance.

While I can give the kitchen points for well-made crusts on its 12-, 14- and 16-inch pizzas -- though I prefer a bit more salt -- the pizza sauce had an unappealing sweetness and contained too many dried herbs. Whether it was the sausage-bacon-ground-beef-Canadian-bacon-and-pepperoni-laden "monstro" ($15.99-$19.99), the eight-toppings "ultimate" ($17.99-$21.99) or the Canadian bacon and pineapple Hawaiian ($13.99-$17.99), that sweet, herby sauce kept getting in the way of the other flavors. A sprinkling of more dried herbs on the pies just before delivery was overkill.

Other menu items were either dated or uneven. Lasagna ($11.99) and a calzone ($11.99) were mediocre, but stuffed zucchini ($10.99) arrived with nearly raw zucchini chunks, while an appetizer of zucchini sticks ($6.99) was fried to near oblivion one night and to a proper golden hue on another, and buffalo wings ($6.99) were rubbery.

Two of my dining partners couldn't have been happier with the classic chef salad supreme ($9.99). Chock-full of iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, black olives, red onions, green bell peppers, ham, turkey, grated mozzarella, "baby" carrots, tomatoes and sprouts, the salad hasn't changed much over the years. Most of the ingredients were fresh, save for the carrots, which were dried out.

If none of the 10 signature pizzas sound interesting, you can make your own with more than 30 toppings to choose from, including cream cheese, bacon, Fritos and pinto beans.

I like that kids aren't an afterthought here. Little ones can order pizza bread, spaghetti, chicken fingers, a 6-inch pizza or French dip sandwich with a drink for $4.99 -- and they get to play tick-tack-toe or color their own pizza toppings on their menus while they wait.

While all that starch can be filling, be sure to save some room for dessert. Gepetto's has six choices -- a hefty number for a pizza joint. Among them are key lime pie, a brownie sundae and a "cow pie" (each $5.99). The latter dessert is a giant cookie with a mound of ice cream on top. Choose from chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or white chunk macadamia. The best part about the cookie is that it's a bit underdone, giving it a half-doughy, half-crunchy texture. Spumoni ice cream ($2.99), a blend of chocolate, pistachio and cherry ice cream, and the root beer float ($3.99) are real retro treats.

Though it's not my favorite pizzeria around, Gepetto's has obviously been doing something right to stay in business in the same location for 38 years. That alone warrants a certain level of respect. Plus, who else could get away with a selection of toppings that includes Fritos, pinto beans and cream cheese?

E-mail Lesli J. Neilson at lneilson@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">lneilson@sltrib.com.

Gepetto's

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Bottom line » This pizzeria has been tossing pies in Holladay for over 35 years. Though the crust is decent, the pizza would benefit from the use of fewer dried herbs. Live music perks up the bohemian vibe of the place.

Location » 2340 E. Murray-Holladay Road (4670 South), Holladay; 801-272-1061

Online » http://gepettospizza.info" Target="_BLANK">gepettospizza.info

Hours » Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m.

Children's menu » Yes

Prices » $

Liquor » Beer and wine

Corkage » $8

Reservations » Accepted

Takeout » Yes

Wheelchair access » Yes

Outdoor dining » Yes

On-site parking » Yes

Credit cards » All major