Christopher Zacherl

To celebrate National Pizza Day on Feb. 9, The Pizza Joint will offer students a free slice of pizza with a valid student I.D.

Local pizzarias embrace El Pasoan’s love for the dish

February 9, 2016

There is no truer love than pizza, and many local business owners have acted on their love for the dish by opening their own pizza restaurants. National Pizza Day is Feb. 9, and luckily, El Pasoan’s have various choices when ordering the Italian favorite. From The Pizza Joint and Nona’s, to House of Pizza Downtown, El Paso’s dining life is bustling with pizza delicacies of all kinds.

Melissa Maese, owner of The Pizza Joint, a trendy pizza restaurant on Mesa Street, said she opened the restaurant to give the residents of El Paso a different and unique pizza dining experience.

“I chose to open a pizza restaurant that offered pizza by the slice, to fill a void,” Maese said. “In any large city or college town, I always found a pizza place that was open late after the bars on weekends and sold large slices for on the go, and I felt that El Paso needed to have this, so I sought to make it so.”

This was originally not the path Maese saw herself taking, but she said she is thankful she did.

“I never thought I would end up in the restaurant business, or even an entrepreneur, but that is life,” Maese said. “We can only find out the way in choices and risks, and I felt that this business idea was solid and believed that I could make it so.”

A graduate of UTEP, Maese made it her goal to bring good, unique food to a place she has called home for many years.

“I was inspired by the possibility of bringing this new concept to my city and my alma mater, UTEP,” Maese said. “El Paso has embraced The Pizza Joint and supported it over the past five years, and I am so overwhelmed by the love and demand for our pizza.”

Melissa Holguin, junior political science major, said she enjoys eating at The Pizza Joint because the pizza reminds her of something she would watch in cartoons.

“They definitely have a different kind of pizza, like ‘90s pizza or the pizza you’d see on ‘The Ninja Turtles,’” Holguin said.

The Pizza Joint is not the only restaurant in El Paso catering to people’s pizza cravings. Chris Rakas and his wife, Christina Rakas, co-owners of House of Pizza Downtown, opened their restaurant to follow in their family’s footsteps and continue the family tradition in a new and vibrant location.

“My father owns the other House of Pizza location on Piedras, which has been open since 1978,” Chris Rakas said. “I was going to help him and stay there and maybe take over, but I saw an opportunity about five years ago to open one downtown.”

Rakas said he always knew up he would open his own restaurant because it was something he had grown up with.

“I was 3 when they opened the other location, so I grew up in the restaurant business,” Rakas said. “I was also a musician, so I thought I might play in a rock band when I grew up, but that didn’t work out, but this is still really cool, though. I love it.”

Angela Geske, owner of Nona’s Pizza, Cabo Joe’s and Geske’s Fire Grill, said she and her husband decided to branch out with their line of restaurants by opening Nona’s Pizza, a place where they feel people could enjoy a comfortable ambience while enjoying a slice of pizza.

“We wanted a place where people could go to with video games and pizza, and kind of make it a casual atmosphere,” Geske said.

As a graduate from UTEP, Geske said being in the restaurant business gives her the opportunity to fully utilize her degree.

“I kind of fell into the restaurant business when I got married,” Geske said. “But I get to use my marketing degree helping out with the restaurants.”

In the future, Geske said they hope to open another Nona’s on the Far East side of town.

“We would like to open another Nona’s on Joe Battle,” Geske said. “And we’re actually looking at another location over there.”

Holguin said she loves eating at Nona’s because it reminds her of some of her favorite pizza.

“It reminds me of Peter Piper’s Pizza,” Holguin said. “But I love the fact that it’s locally owned.”

In honor of National Pizza Day, The Pizza Joint will be giving a free slice of pizza for students with a valid UTEP I.D.

El Paso is ripe with locally owned pizza restaurants that have different kinds of slices to offer. For more information about these restaurants, visit their Facebook pages.

Julia Hettiger may be reached at [email protected]

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