The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

The Gourmet Pizza Shoppe
Yucaipa, CA

When you think of pizza, what comes to mind? I picture a round pie, occasionally rectangle, with crust, tomato sauce, various toppings and cheese.

How about a pizza with mashed potatoes spread on the crust instead of tomato sauce? Perhaps with some gravy and chunks of fried chicken thrown in for good measure?

Mashed potatoes on a pizza? Gravy? And fried chicken? I’m a Southern girl who loves fried chicken any time, any place, but on a pizza? If that’s not to your liking, how about peanut butter and bacon?

Sorta reminds me of a SciFi movie about an identical world where everything appears the same, but instead of exact duplicates, subtle differences let us know we’re experiencing something a little weird. At least I’d think they were weird. Certainly peanut butter on a pizza sounds weird.

But not everyone thinks so. The Gourmet Pizza Shoppe on State Street in Redlands has been serving pizzas with mashed potatoes, peanut butter, and other odd toppings for ten years. Not only have they served the pizzas, but the January 2008 issue of the Inland Empire magazine lists them as one of the top pizza shops in the entire Inland Empire.

Now they’ve expanded to the Yucaipa/Calimesa area and Sheila and I visited their newly-opened restaurant on Calimesa Boulevard. They're still waiting for their sign, but they're open, and the interior feels spacious with tables and booths and a cozy wooden bar.

Don Craw, one of the three owners of the Redlands Gourmet Pizza Shoppe on State Street in Redlands, and now the operating manager of the Yucaipa/Calimesa store, assures me mashed potatoes on pizza is delicious. Joe Capraro, the evening manager, agrees. Called the Mini Pearl, they urged us to try it. And Don says the Wild Mayan with peanut butter, bacon, red onion, cheese and cholula sauce is popular.

(L-R Don Craw, Joe Capraro)

If neither of the above sounds like something you want to try, they have about four pages of pizzas ranging from the fairly normal Spicy Southwestern Pizzas, Seafood Pizzas, Garden Fresh Vegetarian, to the not-so normal.

There’s the No Kissing Tonight with chopped garlic, ricotta, pesto sauce, tomato, bacon, red onion, and mozzarella cheese. The All American Burger
ingredients reads like an old-fashioned hamburger with Thousand-Island dressing, double ground beef, onion, dill pickle chips, tomato, cheese, and lettuce.

The Granny’s House boasts country gravy, new potato, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese.

And that’s only a sampling of their pizzas. Some other ingredients include hoisin sauce on the Suzy Wong; BBQ sauce on the Cattleman’s and the Gouda, plus other toppings such as teriyaki sauce, pesto, pine nuts, cream cheese and cashews. But I still couldn’t imagine mashed potatoes.

Don must have seen my raised eyebrows because he fixed a Mini Pearl for me to try. He also made a Malibu Magic with honey mustard dressing, Canadian bacon, chicken, regular bacon, pineapple, white rice, red onion, and two cheeses.

Sheila and I told him we loved eggplant parmesan, so Don whipped up a pizza with eggplant as its main topping. One other was the more standard pizza, the Tony Bennoni, with pizza sauce, mushrooms, black olives, bell pepper, pepperoni, sausage, salami, red onions, mozzarella cheese and seasonings.

Since we wanted to try several, we ordered them in the 7” size. Also available are the 10” 12” 14” and 16”.

When they arrived, they looked fairly normal, and when I tried the Mini Pearl, I was surprised. The mashed potatoes blended in with the other flavors and didn’t taste weird at all. And I’d never think pineapple would taste good with red onion, but The Malibu Magic had just a little tang, yet tasted fresh and delicious.

Perhaps I’m still old-fashioned, as my favorite was the Italian Tony Bennoni. Don told me they experimented with arranging each ingredient to get the perfect blending of flavors.  

Don’s father, Bill Craw, opened the shoppe in Redlands in 1998 after running Camp Edwards for the Redlands YMCA, and while in high school, Don and his friend, Scott Brandt, worked for him. Now all three are co-owners. Even after earning an engineering degree, Don discovered he loved the restaurant business and enjoyed experimenting with flavors. One of their seafood pizzas was created after transferring the ingredients from a seafood casserole to a

One reason I enjoyed their pizzas was the cheese. Instead of stringy, I noticed more of a creamy texture. High-end mozzarella, Don told me. And the taste and texture of the crusts were different. Italian white bread, Don said, made fresh each day.

They also have sandwiches, pasta dishes, salads, pizza salads, which are pizza toppings served over romaine lettuce, and appetizers. Regular salads start at $2.69 for a side salad with an entrée, to a family-size antipasto salad for $11.79. Pizza salads begin with the Balboa Island, with pesto sauce, chicken, tomato, new potato and cheese, for $6.45 to the Oaxaca for $8.23, with refried beans, enchilada sauce, ground beef, black beans, rice, chilies, tomato, red onion and tortilla chips.

Some of the appetizers are buffalo wings, potato wedges, and jalapeno poppers, small for $3.79 to the large for $5.79.

Pizzas are individually priced, but you can roughly estimate around six or seven dollars for the 7 inch to around twenty, give or take a couple of dollars, for the 16”.

Lunch specials are $9.25 for a 7” personal pizza and includes a side dinner salad and a fountain soda.

One of the dessert pizzas is the Apple Annie, with melted butter, diced apples, drizzled with caramel sauce, cinnamon and Jack cheese. Another is the Einstein’s Glue with peanut butter, marshmallow cream and chocolate chips, Graham cracker pieces and jack cheese, modelled, Don said, after S'mores. Sheila and I had the Red, White, and Blueberry pizza with vanilla cream cheese whip, raspberries, blueberries, brown sugar and jack cheese. Sweet, tart, and creamy, all at the same time. The seven-inch size is $5.99 and the 10” is $11.49.

Their fountain sodas are limitless, and they have some old favorites that I hadn’t seen in years including Nehi Root Beer and Orange. They even have RC Cola, but what made them perfect was their Diet Coke instead of Pepsi. Hooray!

Draft and bottled beers are available as well as several wines.

Located on Calimesa Boulevard between County Line Road and Avenue J, they’ll be celebrating their Grand Opening the week of January 7-13 with several specials at special prices.

Stop by and see how brave you are at trying new things. It's quite an experience.  
Tuesday thru Saturday: 11am to 9pm
Sunday: 12pm to 8pm

13661 Calimesa Blvd
Yucaipa, CA