Family pizzeria finds place in community

The pepperoni pizza has a nice heft to a thin crust. (Molly Reitter/MIM photo)

By Molly Reitter

MOUNT HOLLY – Papa Sammy, also known as Sammy Gonzalez, had been making pizza at home for his grandchildren for many years.
His wife, Ilse Gonzalez, was the general manager of a McDonald’s for more than 15 years.
With their combined expertise, they ran a pizzeria in Fort Mill for two years with great success. However, they were missing family and decided to sell the restaurant and start a new one. So Papa Sammy’s Pizza in Mount Holly was born.
The Gonzalezs found a very welcome reception when they opened their doors in February 2014.
“The people here are just so nice,” Ilse Gonzalez said. “They have been very helpful by referring us to their friends.”
They also love being close to their son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who attend Mountain Island Charter School.
“It was just the perfect place to open a pizzeria,” Sammy Gonzalez said.
The renovations on the restaurant began in December 2013. Although the space was a type of restaurant beforehand, there was much work to be done.
“We basically had to start from scratch to make it our own,” Sammy Gonzalez said.
They added turbo jet pizza ovens, which cook pizzas in about five to six minutes.
“These ovens were really worth the money,” Sammy Gonzalez said. “Our pizza is cooked perfectly every single time.”
The restaurant itself is good sized with two separate dining areas. The clean linoleum floors are lined with tables covered with red-checked tablecloths and black-checked tablecloths. Comfortable black padded chairs are pushed neatly in place under the tables. A large blackboard on the wall displays pizza sizes, prices and a multitude of toppings.
Customers head to the front counter to order and can see the open kitchen complete with those turbo jet pizza ovens and a beer cooler.
Everything in the place sparkles with both warmth and cleanliness.
The menu at Papa Sammy’s Pizza is nicely rounded, featuring calzones, stromboli, chicken wings, pasta dishes, salads, burgers, subs and of course, pizza.
But with this simplicity comes great particularity when it comes to ingredients.
The mozzarella cheese is grande cheese, which is made in the Italian style. The dough is made in-house along with the bread, pizza sauce, wing sauce and garlic knots.
The burgers are fresh meat that is hand-pattied and all the produce is fresh. Nothing is served from a can. The chicken is also fresh, never frozen. These small, yet important gestures, are important to the Gonzalezs and have created an excellent customer base.
The pizza itself is excellent with a nice heft to the thinner-style crust and good tasting sauce and toppings. Although the crust is only served in a thin-style, because they make it in-house they are happy to tailor it to a customer’s liking. They do serve beer and are working on wine to be distributed at a later date. They do a bustling take-out business and deliver within a four-mile radius from the store.
Ilse Gonzalez also bakes gorgeous, homemade cakes for both the restaurant and for people to order. She makes red velvet cake, chocolate cake and others, which can be customized for any occasion.
“People really do love the cakes,” Ilse Gonzalez said. “They often say they are the best they’ve ever tried!”
The Gonzalezs have created the ultimate community pizza joint for the people of Mount Holly and beyond.
“I really understand customer service,” Ilse Gonzalez said. “I’ve been to numerous training classes and worked in it for a long time.”
This depth of knowledge shows in the way the customers are treated when they walk in the restaurant; people are really responding to this kind of care.
“Hey, we live here too,” Sammy Gonzalez said. “We wanted to take something that is truly ours and share it with our community.”

Want to go?
Papa Sammy’s Pizza
140 E Central Ave., Mount Holly

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