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Pacific Avenue Pizza drops ‘Avenue,’ gets new look, menu and owners along with its new name

At first glance, the changes seem subtle.

A word dropped in the name. A new coat of paint. Some new bar stools. Tables, too.

Visitors returning to Pacific Pizza for the first time in awhile – it was closed for six weeks in late summer – might not notice right away. After all, the footprint is largely the same: the bar on one side, seating on the other, kitchen in the back.

But the old neighborhood pizza place has new owners, a new menu, a new look and – even though it’s just a slight change – a new name.

Pacific Avenue Pizza, or Pac Ave. as it was commonly called, reopened in early September as Pacific Pizza. The menu is streamlined. The ambiance feels welcoming and familiar yet contemporary and tidied up.

Customers can still get a whole pie or pizza by the slice. And the spot is still open late. The bar is the same.

But the comic books that used to line the wall are gone. So are the movie posters and album covers.

“We wanted to keep the neighborhood hang-out vibe. We wanted it to be a place where people drop in for a slice and a beer and connect with neighbors,” said new owner John Siok. Also, “We wanted something we could be proud of.”

He’s proud of this place. His other one, too.

Siok, 54, bought South Perry Pizza five years ago, leaving behind the corporate world and a job in medical sales. He has a master’s degree in business administration from Gonzaga University and “a good, solid business background. I get how to run a business.”

While “the food industry has its own unique challenges,” Siok said, he already understood the regulations and accounting.

And he had a passion for it.

“I love food and the food industry, and I like making things, and I like making people happy,” he said. “I’m a people-pleaser at heart. And when you have a restaurant it’s like throwing a party for people every day.”

Plus, he said, “Pizza is the happiest food on earth.”

(He admits tacos are right up there, too.)

“Who doesn’t like pizza?” he said. “It’s simple, but there’s so much variety.”

In August, Siok and South Perry Pizza general manager Jon Coyne partnered up to purchase Pacific Avenue and got to work renovating the space.

They added a back bar, new flooring as well as a couple of pinball machines. They installed new light fixtures. They bought a new oven as well as “lots of new equipment.” They repaired the old beer coolers. They created a menu.

Offerings at the new Pacific Pizza are streamlined but elevated. The space is smaller than its sister South Perry Pizza. Inventory is limited.

So, Siok said, “We wanted to keep things really, really simple. We borrow things from South Perry, but it’s not the same pizza.”

The pizza dough and sauces are made from scratch in house. So are the salad dressings and brioche for sandwiches. The brioche recipe comes from Siok’s son, Taylor, the pastry chef at Luna on Spokane’s South Hill.

There are six specialty pizzas, plus plain cheese as well as the chance to build your own.

The Papa Georgia features red sauce, mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and sausage. So far, it’s the top-seller. It’s also “the big meaty one,” Siok said.

Perhaps the second most popular pizza is the Cali Margherita, which features olive oil and balsamic reduction instead of red sauce. It’s also topped with mozzarella, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil.

Look, also, for a more traditional Margherita with red sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil as well as a Mediterranean chicken pizza and the Gladiator with red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, black olives, jalapeños and fresh tomatoes.

So far the least ordered – but one of Siok’s favorites – is the tapenade pizza featuring Greek flavors. There’s house-made tapenade, feta, chicken, red onion and fresh tomatoes.

But, he said, “I like them all. I really do.”

Pizza comes in two sizes, and prices range from $12 to $20 per pie.

Pizza is also available by the slice, but there’s not hot-holding here. Crusts are par-cooked and then slices are made to order.

Dough, made with commercial yeast, is pre-fermented for 24 hours just like it is at South Perry Pizza. But pie makers use slightly different ratios at Pacific Pizza as well as a different cooking process.

“The oven here is a bit cooler than the oven at South Perry,” Siok said. So, “There’s slightly lower hydration in the dough.”

Rounding out the menu are three kinds of chicken wings, a hummus plate, Parmesan-garlic bread bites and a few salads, flat breads and sandwiches.

“I’d like people to think of it as a spot not just to come in at night but also for lunch, especially for slices. It can be a really quick and inexpensive and delicious lunch,” Siok said, noting, “The menu is definitely a work in progress. We’ll probably be tweaking it through winter.”

Also up for discussion: the possibility of adding live music or trivia or both as well as art on the walls. So far, iconic vintage 1980s prints from Patrick Nagel have replaced the comic book and album covers. But Siok is also interested in adding an art rail like the one he has at South Perry Pizza to spotlight the works of local artists.

“I wanted to have two pizza places in the two coolest neighborhoods in Spokane,” Siok said. “I wanted to grow the business.”

He isn’t ruling out someday opening another pizza spot. But, for now, he said, “this is enough.”

Regulars will recognize familiar faces. Four of Pacific Pizza’s eight employees worked here when it was still Pacific Avenue Pizza. That compares to 19 workers at South Perry Pizza.

There’s room for 52 inside, plus 12 on the front patio and another 12 on the back patio.

And there are six taps, which primarily focus on regional beer. Look, usually, for an IPA, a pale, an amber and a brown ale or stout. The other two taps are typically a cider as well as Rainier.

Plus, there are specials every day.

Monday, pints and Fireball shots are $4. Tuesday and Thursday, slices and tallboys are $2.50 each. Wednesday is $4 wells. Friday, get a half-pitcher for $8 if you buy a pizza. Saturday, a two-topping pizza is $14. Sunday, bloody marys are $5.

The transition from Pacific Avenue Pizza to Pacific Pizza was quiet, and that was intentional, Siok said. “We wanted to open slowly and get our footing, and I feel like we’re there now.”

And, as far as the new name goes, he said, “We just wanted to indicate a slight change. My other place is named after the street, too, so it just sort of seemed to fit.”