Downtown Oceanside’s newest family-owned pizzeria offers patrons an impressive range of dining options.
Benito’s Pizza Cafe, 610 Mission Ave., is rapidly becoming a hot spot in the heart of Downtown Oceanside for pizza, pasta, chicken, subs, calzones, salads, appetizers and more. The Oceanside location opened in September and is owned and operated by Benito and his three sons, Jason, Mauro and Michael Mautone. The restaurant business is in their DNA.
“We were raised in it,” Mauro explained. “Our Dad immigrated from Palinuro, Italy, when he was 18 and gained experience in the food industry before deciding to go out on his own. In 1979, he opened his first Benito’s location in Michigan. As my brothers and I got older, he expanded the business with our help.” It was Jason’s dream and ambition especially of growing the chain that propelled Benito’s into a multi-unit pizzeria brand with over 20 units, mostly takeout and delivery locations.
After graduating from college, Mauro moved to New York City and worked in commercial banking. An MBA from the University of Chicago and four years in investment banking later, Mauro returned to the family business. Michael spent time pursuing a master’s in English at the University of Buffalo and teaching before returning to realize his dream of opening a full-service restaurant. This was the inspiration of the first Benito’s Pizza Cafe, located in Novi, Michigan. Shortly thereafter Benito’s secured a contract to open a location on the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona.
“Given our location in Yuma, we were looking at Oceanside to be near another Marine base and quickly realized the potential of opening another Cafe with our expanded menu. It’s very relaxed and down to earth in Oceanside and it’s developing into a center for innovative cuisine for locals and tourists. We knew we wanted to open a Benito’s but we weren’t certain we wanted it to be a Cafe. Because of the beautiful building with its original exposed high-beam, wooden ceiling in the heart of Downtown Oceanside on Mission and its exciting redevelopment, we knew we had to open a Cafe here.”
Mauro said coming back to the business and making pizza was like riding a bicycle, and Benito’s Pizza Cafe has a lot of different pizza selections to choose from. They offer several styles: hand-tossed round, thin crust, deep dish and Neapolitan inspired brick oven pizzas. You can build your own with the usual fare of toppings or opt for other gourmet toppings such as prosciutto, hot capicola, zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach, goat cheese and more. They have a wide selection of sizes, from a 9-inch personal to their 24-inch Big Benito with 20-foot-long slices.
If you don’t want to build your own, you can choose one of their many specialty pizzas like the Hawaiian, BBQ Chicken, Big Meal, Deluxe or Chicken Supreme or go vegetarian with the Mediterranean, Vegetarian or Spinach Supreme. These are just a few of the pizzas available but definitely not the only things on the menu.
“We have our traditional pizza, but I really recommend people try pizza from our brick oven menu. Those pizzas are baked directly on a hot stone, which gives you authentic Italian pizza made from imported Italian caputo flour and layered with fresh and vibrant Italian Tomato, Alfredo or Creamy Pesto sauce,” Mauro said.
“Our expertise is pizza and pasta, and I am pleasantly surprised at the interest in our Detroit-style deep dish. What really thrills me is how receptive people are to our pastas. They have been a big seller for us,” Mauro said. All of their sauces are original recipes and made in-house. They offer pasta marinara or meat sauce, Fettuccini Alfredo, Creamy Pesto spaghetti, Tomato Blush penne and Mac & Cheese cellentani.
Along with pizza and pasta, people love the calzones. The salads — including Antipasto, Greek and Cherry Walnut — have also been popular at Benito’s, as well as their oven-baked subs, chicken wings and homemade soups.
“People are responding well to our appetizers like the Spinach Artichoke Dip, Bruschetta, Mozzarella Sticks and meatball dishes.
“We also have chicken parmesan and chicken cutlet entrees. We’re the only place west of the 15 that offers Genuine Broaster Chicken. When people eat out here or there is a big group, they don’t necessarily have to all agree on pasta and pizza. We wanted to have many options for people who may not be in the mood for pizza,” Mauro continued. “People can have a leisurely dinner or can order a quick bite like a slice of pizza, personal pizza, oven-baked sub or tasty calzone if they’re in a hurry and on the go.”
Benito’s also has a custom, 10-tap beer tower stocked with a great selection of craft beers; an imported Italian wine selection; bottled domestic beers; and an espresso bar offering espresso, cappuccino, Americano and latte options. They have big screen TVs, which showcase major sporting events. The dining area is open and airy and the decor is inviting. The large dramatic wall murals are an homage to Benito’s hometown in Italy but are also meant to give the diner the effect of eating seaside along the Mediterranean coast.
You can dine in with a full-service waitstaff, order at the counter to eat in for a quick bite, or order to go. You can also call ahead for pickup and delivery. An outdoor patio is coming soon, and there is even parking in the back.
To learn more about Benito’s Pizza Cafe or to place an order, call 760-721-3000 or go to www.benitospizza.com.