Making good pizza better: Land Park’s breakfast pizza revolution

 

By Bia Riaz

Buffalo Pizza undergoes big changes, soon to include vegan offerings.

bia@valcomnews.com

Land Park’s Buffalo Pizza & Ice Cream Co. has been a Sacramento institution for over 30 years. Loved and known by locals for its signature Original Breakfast Pizza and quirky hours of operation, it is the go to place to feed breakfast cravings. They are celebrating 21 years at its current location, 2600 21st St. With recently extended hours, and an introduction of new vegan cheese options, Buffalo Pizzas herd of followers, and curious new visitors, will be able to experience these house-made plant based cheeses at two pop up events scheduled for September.

The Legend of Buffalo Pizza

Several years ago, Mai Linh Tompkins and Brian Fischer, two of the innovative minds behind Sacramento’s first co-working space, Capsity, noticed a curious little shop advertising breakfast pizza and ice cream on the block next to their office. They peeked inside the windows and it appeared to be a working kitchen with a huge pizza oven and boxes, but it was never open. Man Linh remembered thinking, “What’s up?, I need my Pizza!” After some investigation, they discovered it was indeed a working pizza place, and had been in existence for thirty years. During that time, Buffalo Pizza had experienced several incarnations and changes to their business model. About twenty years ago, local resident, Charles Elkik had become the owner and proprietor of the infamous pizza place. According to local lore and conversations with neighbors, the business had experienced some challenges in the original dining room location on the corner of Broadway and 21st. Various acts of vandalism, issues with credit card payments, and delivery service, prompted Elkik to move the location to the 2600 block of 21st street, Buffalo Pizza’s current location. He also also set some very strict rules like no credit cards, no delivery, no dining room, no weekend hours, and no chicken wings! The hours were also limited to breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As Capsity was growing and providing an active workspace for many of Sacramento’s new start-ups and community organizations, less than a block away from Buffalo Pizza, they knew they had to connect with the owner. The Capsity space was hosting 45-60 meetings and events on a regular basis. Having a working pizza place and kitchen next door was immensely important and vital to the co-working community. Brian, Capsity’s Chief Inspiration Officer, finally managed to connect with Elkik and inquired if he would be interested in selling the place. According to Brian and Mai Linh, “Yes!” was the emphatic response from Elkik. He had been looking to wind down the business to pursue other ventures. Elkik agreed to stay on during the transition to mentor Mai Linh and Brian. They learned the original recipes and the fundamentals of the pizza business. They also actively worked to help Elkik realize his new vision and path outside the pizza world. And just like that, Capsity purchased Buffalo Pizza in 2015.

Do Good Better

Founded on the principle of “Do Good Better,” Capsity’s holistic values shaped the new business model for Buffalo Pizza. According to the founders, “The concept of co-working goes beyond just a shared office space. Coworking is the belief that a community can create more powerfully and more efficiently than just an individual, but that it needs a place where individuals can integrate and collaborate. Capsity is an on-going experiment in creating the space for human relationships to manifest into community and social good.” In keeping with their Capsity principles and welcoming Buffalo Pizza into the Capsity family, they kept all the Buffalo Pizza staff and increased their wages. “We pay our workers a living wage. Our employees average well over $15/hour TODAY. We’re not going to wait for the 2022 legislation for $15/hour minimum wage. By then, $22 will be too low,” said Mai Linh.

Although they kept the original recipes, they tweaked them to use fresher local ingredients. They follow a “Farm to Face, no fork required!” principle in creating their pizzas by sourcing ingredients from local growers whenever they can. They work with and support local farms like youth owned, H&K Farms. The breakfast pizzas feature cage-free eggs from Vega Farms.

As a vegan in a mixed food family, Mai Linh wanted to add vegan options to the Buffalo Pizza menu. Often times, vegans, vegetarians, and people with allergies to dairy or gluten, may avoid pizza places. Usually, they are faced with a sad iceberg lettuce based day-old salad as their only option. Mai Linh introduced some commercially available dairy free cheese style shreds and a vegan dough to appeal to customers with special dietary needs. Although the substitutes were good, she wanted to do better. Unsatisfied with the taste and texture of those products, she went on a mission to create her own plant based cheeses. Of course, as Co-CEO of Capsity, she had worked with and knew many of the local innovative entrepreneurs, like Ilsa Hess, founder of Love & Joy Foods and creator of the dairy free, gluten free ‘Nacheez’ sauce. Ilsa had already pioneered the creation of a creamy luscious cheese sauce to satisfy any cravings for nachos and beyond, using cashews, red peppers, and other healthy ingredients. She had created an anomaly, “healthy junk food.” Excited by the challenge, Ilsa agreed to mentor Mai Linh and they both embarked on a journey to create tasty vegan cheeses to use on pizza. Building on Ilsa’s vegan cheese recipes and lots of additional research on the non-dairy evolution taking place all over the world for people seeking healthier and more humane options for food, they tested and developed several new flavors to offer at Buffalo Pizza. Using ingredients like cashews, almonds, soy, and various spices and herbs, they created dill havarti, and smoked gouda inspired non-dairy cheeses. Also in the works, is a new “Bac-un” Jack using textured vegetable protein to mimic the flavor of bacon in a Monterey Jack inspired vegan cheese.

Wake-up your Taste Buds at the Pop Up Vegan Pizza Party

The best way to introduce these new vegan options to customers would be to have a pop up Buffalo Pizza party,” thought Ilsa and Mai Linh. Curious customers and new visitors will be able to sample the new vegan cheeses at two pop up events being hosted at Buffalo Pizza in collaboration with Nacheez.

The first event will be Sunday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. According to the the Facebook event page, “We are veganizing the infamous Buffalo Pizza and Ice Cream Co. Breakfast Pizza with amazing homemade garlic cheese and other creative vegan toppings. Nacheez Chilaquiles Pizza (vegan!) will also be on the menu. Each slice is $5. A great way to fill up your belly before or after the Antique Faire under the highway (21st and X streets)

This is to help kickstart the new vegan menu at Buffalo Pizza and Ice Cream Co. They will be offering their amazing homemade vegan cheeses and vegan pizza dough so you can create your own mind blowing vegan pizza.”

The second pop up will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and in addition to the vegan cheese pizzas, will also feature special guest and local tea sommelier, Leo Hickman, of Classy Hippie Tea Company located in Oak Park and also available at Vino Volo lounge located at Sacramento International airport. Leo will be offering his herb and spice tea creations. “Breakfast Pizza pairs perfectly with tea and coffee infused with wellness,” said Leo. He will also have a special spice and herb coffee blend available at the pop up.

It’s time to abandon your cold leftover pizza as a breakfast option and explore the breakfast pizza evolution and revolution at Buffalo Pizza and Ice Cream Company. Stop by one or both of the pop up parties. Also, stay tuned for news about their exciting foray into house-made ice cream offerings in collaboration with local Cornflower Creamery, a unique artisan, farm-to-scoop ice cream experience.

For more information about the event and Buffalo Pizza visit: buffalobreakfastpizza.com/

For more information about Ilsa and Love & Joy Food Company visit: nacheez.com/

For more information about Leo and Classy Hippie Tea visit: classyhippieteaco.com

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