Ever wonder how Punta Gorda can support 10 Tamiami Trail-area pizzerias?

Somehow they’re all thriving, including three that first started tossing dough a year ago, at the height of pandemic uncertainty. And another pizza-and-pasta restaurant — in the works since at least a year ago — is about to join them.

PIONEERING OUTSIDE THE BOX

The first new pie in last year’s Punta Gorda pizza pileup came from Rick Barone, whose second Pioneers Pizza opened its doors there in late June 2020.

At the time, he said, “Everybody does the same red-white-and-green thing, with an Italian name. I stopped trying to do what I thought other people would like in an Italian restaurant, and instead made it a cool, fun place that I’d like to go to myself. At first I worried that I’d gone too wacko and would scare people away. But when I started thinking outside the box, that’s when everything fell into place.

“I knew I could make it ... even in Punta Gorda, in summer, in a pandemic.”

Pioneers Pizza PG ($$), 941-916-9947, 2113 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda, is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 10 p.m., Sunday noon to 9 p.m., with a full-liquor bar.

PIZZA GORDISSIMA

In August 2020, Nico Candelora and his wife, Marzia, founders and for six years owners of Venice’s popular Ristorante San Marco, fired up Punta Gorda’s first wood-burning pizza oven, vented through the original chimney of a historic Taylor Street bungalow.

“This is a great community,” Nico said at the time. “We have a charming location and we didn’t see any other wood-oven pizzerias here.”

Soon there’ll be another, but their Pizza Gorda was the first.

Since opening, they’ve been named a 2020 Business of the Year; changed and grown the menu three times; added much more outdoor seating, soon to be covered with tiki umbrellas; and expanded their wine collection.

Pizza Gorda’s brick oven bakes panini, calzones and gourmet thin-crust pizza, using organic flour proofed for 36 hours for better digestibility.

Pizza toppings include Italian prosciutto, arugula, fresh artichokes, seafood, local organic produce and cheese from local milk. They also offer soup, salads and appetizers like stuffed eggplant and sautéed artichokes — all fresh and organic.

Their restaurant’s name is a perfect play on words but, unlike its unflattering Spanish translation, their “gorda” means “delicious.”

Punta Gorda diners couldn’t agree more.

Pizza Gorda ($$, O), 941-205-8092, 315 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda, is open Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 9 p.m., with an extensive wine list and beer.

PIZZA GONE WILD(WOOD)

A year ago next Tuesday, Rick Barone’s brother, Mike, and Bianca Hannigan re-created a retro boardwalk experience in the heart of Punta Gorda.

The little space, then behind Pomegranate & Fig on W. Marion, had been home to a short-lived series of ventures. After gutting it to the studs, the couple turned it into a 1970s white-tiled slice house, complete with orange grout, a wall-sized Ferris wheel mural and a faux-boardwalk stamped cement floor.

Outside, its formerly enclosed patio now opens out onto the brick pathway connecting W. Marion Avenue and Herald Court, seating passersby in a string-lit courtyard with music, wine and beer.

Barone said, “Trippin’ on Pizza (their food truck) was like a lab experiment for us, until we perfected a product that crushed it wherever we went. Those flavors combined with a 16-inch round or square, thin-crust Jersey-style pizza? We have something really cool here.

“This is a passion project just like the truck was. If you do it with love, it works.”

Wildwood Pizza ($, O), 941-205-8818, 117 W. Marion Avenue (down the alley off Marion), is open Tuesday to Thursday 4:20 (ask why, and they’ll tell you) to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday to midnight. On Saturday, Sept. 25, they’ll celebrate their birthday with live music, free yoga, and free wine and beer with every 420 Special.

DOUGHBAR SNEAK PEEK

Just try kidding him about his newest restaurant’s being named after him. Gatorz owner Doug Harris will swear up and down that Punta Gorda’s sleek new DoughBar isn’t the Doug H. Bar.

“No, no. It’s all about the dough,” he’ll protest.

It’s also all about DoughBar Pizza Pasta’s other three partners: Paul Russo of Impact Homes, who built the place; his cousin Monica Russo; and pizzaiolo Nicola (Nick) Margiotta — from the same Long Island family that operated Michelangelo Pizzeria & Restaurant in North Port, Asaro’s Pizzeria Ristorante in Venice, and Colosseo Pizzeria & Restaurant in Murdock.

You already know the Margiotta family’s famous square Grandma pies, but DoughBar will also serve traditional Sicilian, thin-crust New York, and wood-fired pizza out of a $48,000 oven from Naples, Italy — along with Italian specialties.

DoughBar ($$, O), 520 King Street, Punta Gorda (next to Gatorz Downtown), will open in September. Stay tuned for more.

LET’S EAT!

From Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, Englewood Florida Chamber of Commerce for the seventh time breathes fresh life into restaurants’ slowest time of the year with its Let’s Eat! Englewood dine-around-town deals.

More than 20 Englewood eateries will offer three-course dinners (and more) for $29 and two-course lunches for $15. Notable unique inclusions: Cape Haze Convenience Store and Rumours Wine Bar.

Sadly, Lock ‘N Key is out this year, due to its kitchen remodel, but Farlow’s on the Water is in, despite its remodel.

Until Sept. 17, Farlow’s will double the size of its inside bar and remodel its kitchen. But, according to its owners, the kitchen and outside bar will be ready to serve Let’s Eat specials and more.

Participating Let’s Eat restaurants include A Better Scoop, Artur’s, Beach Road Wine Bar & Bistro, Cape Haze Convenience Store, Ephesus Mediterranean Grill, Farlow’s on the Water, Isabella’s Bistro, Landy’s Restaurant, Mango Bistro, Nicola’s Italian Kitchen, Obee’s Sub Shop, The Placida Pearl, Prime Time Steak & Spirits, Ricaltini’s Bar & Grill, Rumours Wine Bar, SandBar Tiki & Grille, Snook’s Bayside Restaurant & Tiki Bar, Swirls n Curls, Texas Best Barbecue, Tjs Market Grille, and The Waverly Restaurant.

For menus and a map of locations, visit englewoodchamber.com. Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com.

Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage. Outside dining available = O.

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