MERIDIAN, ID — The restaurant industry is hard to break into as an owner but even harder to stay in business with all the competition.
While many food joints will buy cheaper ingredients or cut corners to stay in business, one pizza joint in Meridian is doing everything the same way it has been since opening a decade ago. This week's Made in Idaho takes us into Johnny's Pizza.
The husband and wife team met over 30 years ago while working at a pizza restaurant in Boise, learned the in's and out's, developed their own techniques and recipes and opened Johnny's Pizza ten years ago.
"We still make pizzas the way we did 30 years ago. We make all of our dough in-house, we age it three or four days so it will taste more like a bread than a cracker," said Johnny's Pizza Co-Owner Patrick Whalen.
So that might explain how the dough is so good, but what about everything else?
"Our sauce is all scratch built, ranch, we have a fantastic ranch recipe that we scratch built, garlic butter, everything is scratch-built within the store," said Patrick.
And for the most part, they're doing it all locally.
"We reached out with Idaho Preferred actually came in with us which is a program that, when you have more than, I think it's 75% of all your products come from the state of Idaho, you get invited into this program, so almost all of our products come from the state of Idaho," said Patrick.
So how did Johnny's get its start? The idea had been there for years but the dream took off after a phone call from a family member.
"Actually my brother-in-law called us and told us that this was available and we were interested in doing something of our own. And then we talked about it, decided we could do it, and it was, do it our way," said Johnny's Pizza Co-Owner Tammy Whalen.
And do it their way they did, which included all their own recipes based on tons of trial and error. Despite no official culinary background, it's one of the most unique pizza sauces you'll ever try.
"We doctored it, made it so, adjusted it, put some spices in that, you know, we use margarine in our sauce. And no one really knows what margarine is but it's one of those things that makes our sauce, our sauce," said the Whalens.
When you walk into Johnny's, you may see a plethora of Treasure Valley youth behind the counter, something the owners are proud of.
"We teach. We're teachers. We teach them how to work. We teach them the skills that they need to go out into the world. I call them big kid jobs and whatnot, but you know, they come in, they have fun, they learn skills, and go on to bigger and better things which is great for us," said the Whalens.
If you haven't heard of Johnny's Pizza, it might be because this little hole-in-the-wall business is too busy teaching the youth about an honest day's work while making truly unique pies and sides and seeing their smiles customers is what this Made in Idaho couple lives for.
"I love it. Because I love feeding people and I love talking to people. Food should have good flavor and if I can put that smile on people's faces, that's good enough for me," smiled Tammy.
If you'd like more information on Johnny's Pizza, you can head to their website here.