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February 17, 2004 > Mission Pizza & Pub

Mission Pizza & Pub

What do racing carburetors, an old violin, a collection of beer cans and bottles, bluegrass music and good food have in common? The answer is easy when passing through the portals of Mission Pizza & Pub. Here, a collection of family and friends have come together to relax and have fun while enjoying excellent pizza. Walls are adorned with memories and Proprietor Phil Willis is happy to share the stories behind them with his guests.

At Mission Pizza & Pub, owners Debra and Phil Willis, along with daughter Andrea, her husband Gabe Cardoza and friend and "pizza guru" Will Victoria host an eclectic and wonderful collection of memorabilia that fascinate the mind, music that soothes the soul and good food that satisfies the body. At the heart of this establishment is the warmth of the extended Mission Pizza & Pub family which expands every time a new customer walks in the door.

Phil recalls the beginnings of Mission Pizza in December 1989, when a combination of unlikely circumstances led him to the business. The food business was nothing new since his past included a career at Granny Goose Foods, a brief stint in the vending machine business, then, due to an injury, a pause that would lead to the pizza business. Not one to sit around during convalescence, Phil was soon looking for something to do - at least on a part time basis. His daughter, working at No Name Pizza in the Mission San Jose area of Fremont, told him of their need for a part time bartender and delivery person. The pizza business beckoned and Phil answered the call.

The business was put on the market and, imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit; Phil, Debra and Will decided to "go for it." Phil says, "The place was for sale; we took a look at buying it and basically risked everything. We have been here ever since!" Running a business is a daunting task for anyone, but Phil had an advantage. "At the same time that I was looking at buying the pizza business, Will, had just returned from out-of-state and was working there too." Will had experience in the pizza business, so Mission Pizza & Pub began to take shape. The transition from employee to owner was accomplished without fear says Phil. "I just go for things without overanalyzing. I work from my heart."

Mission Pizza & Pub quickly became a success. "We cared and made sure our place was clean and friendly." The atmosphere is enhanced by a large collection of beer bottles and cans started many years ago and an assortment of items hanging on the walls, all with a story attached. For instance, Phil says a lot of his friends are "into cars" so there is a grille from a 1933 Ford on one wall, while another proudly displays "6 twos" and manifold from a car Phil owned. At the edge of one wall, a vintage violin in its case is accompanied by a photograph. This remembrance of a close friend, now deceased, is "her fiddle that she played in grammar school." Above the violin, a picture of two women, both doctors in New Zealand, hangs. Both proudly wear their Mission Pizza T-Shirts in their homeland. According to Phil, whenever they are in the area for a conference, they stop by for pizza.

Glancing around the walls, a decorated pith helmet demands attention. Phil says that he got it from a man who used to race at the old Fremont Raceway. The helmet dates from 1957. There is plenty more and stories to go with each item. Steering wheels, license plates from cars and motorcycles - Phil used to race Bultaco Motorcycles.

In keeping with the eclectic d#233;cor, the pizzas also extend beyond the ordinary. Standard fare including combinations of typical meats and vegetables are joined by some unusual concoctions. Phil says these are the result of experiments. "It is easier for us to stay here and eat so many of the combinations and ingredients are on the menu because we wanted to make something different for ourselves." Patrons can meet the whole family through the menu - Phil's Combo and Debra's Garden; their three daughters - Andrea's All Meat Special, Angel's Heavenly Hawaiian, Kim's Hearts and Garlic; followed by grandchildren - Kyle's Cashew Chicken, Tristen's BBQ Chicken, Phoenix's Southwestern Chicken, Gabriel's Fire and Andromeda Skye's Galaxy. Will is featured in "Will's Wild Vegi" and a local real estate agent helped develop another favorite named in his honor - Amit's Mission Masala.

As the pizza names suggest, there are some unusual styles at Mission Pizza & Pub. Along with typical sauces and toppings, the adventurous can try some interesting and tasty sauces such as garlic, masala, mustard, BBQ, peanut, salsa and ranch. Ingredients include the usual suspects such as sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions but expand to some unusual choices - Salmon, Feta Cheese, Asiago Cheese, Broccoli, Greek Peppers, Fruit and Nuts and many more. This is the place where diners can play it safe with half of their pizza and go wild on the other half. Who knows, maybe you will be the one to invent a new combination that will earn a place on the menu for your name!

The pizza names and ingredients are indicative of the type of place Phil envisioned for Mission Pizza & Pub. This is the kind of place where traditional and basic values are treasured but can be mixed with a bit of fun and adventure Phil tries to define Mission Pizza & Pub saying, "I want Mission Pizza & Pub to be a fun place where families can feel welcome and safe without spending a ton of money."

Adding to the informal atmosphere, Mission Pizza & Pub has live music every Friday and Saturday night. Local bands sign up to come in and entertain. "These people want and need a place to play," says Phil. "Many of the musicians are very talented people who do not earn a living from their music, but enjoy playing and sharing with others." The music is primarily country and bluegrass with a bit of light rock and blues.

Every other Saturday night is reserved for a "hosted jam session." "People (including Phil) show up with their guitars, fiddles, mandolins or whatever and we just play songs in turn. When someone's turn comes up, they pick a song and everyone is welcome to join in!" Some people sing, some play their music and some do both. "These are just a bunch of people who like to play bluegrass and country music. There are probably about seventy to eighty people who play music here at one time or another." Phil supplies the place and equipment so people can just show up and play. On Monday nights from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m., a group of people get together in a circle to sing songs and play music. "It's a lot of fun."

Phil says that the music is "not intense" and can either be part of an evening out or remain non-intrusive - "just part of the background." He says the object of all of this is "to have fun." Phil stresses that pizza, calzone and sandwiches are made when ordered, so for those in a hurry, the best practice is to call ahead. An exceptional "all you can eat" salad bar and free refills of soft drinks are nice additions to the menu. A wide selection of beer - 32 beers on tap - and wine is also available.

Whether for music, the interesting d#233;cor or a remarkable selection of pizzas, Mission Pizza & Pub is a place to sit down awhile and relax amongst friends. Located in Ohlone Village on Washington Boulevard near 680, it's easy to find and sure to become the target of repeat visits.

Mission Pizza & Pub
1572 Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 651-6858

Monday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Fridays 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturdays 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sundays 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner
Friday & Saturday 7 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Live Bluegrass, Country & More
Hosted Bluegrass "Jam"
1st & 3rd Saturdays 7 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Friday, Feb 20 Coyote Blue
Saturday, Feb 21 Hosted Bluegrass Jam
Friday, Feb 27 Prairie
Saturday, Feb 28 Dave Daimonit
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