Some might call the American Realty and Petroleum Company (AMREP for short) a pioneering visionary for its early 1960s purchase of over 50,000 acres on the dusty Sandoval County plains that are now Rio Rancho. Others use different–and not necessarily as complimentary–adjectives to describe the land speculator whose clever marketing attracted hundreds of New Yorkers (among others) to the then untamed western fringes overlooking the Rio Grande.
They came because Rio Rancho was a “lucrative investment” with half acre lots going for under $800 in the 1960s. They came because Rio Rancho offered “fishing, camping, swimming and golfing in a place where the sun shone 360 days a year.” They came to live in an area which sloped “among the greenest, most fertile valleys in the world.”
Middle income retirees from New York initially made up a significant percentage of Rio Rancho’s population, earning the community the sobriquet “Little New York.” The nickname is still bandied about even though Rio Rancho’s population is comprised of people from all over the country. In its first decade, the fledgling newcomer became the sixth largest city in New Mexico and by 1990, the census indicated the city had grown to more than 32,000 residents. It grew by almost 20,000 residents by the millennium and as of 2009, is already the third most populous city in New Mexico.
Demographically, the City of Vision has become younger, and while it still attracts retirees, its growth is primarily attributable to first-time buyers moving to Rio Rancho for the quality of life advantages it offers (even without fishing and camping). Among the most apparent vestiges of the New York lifestyle in Rio Rancho is the sheer number of high quality pizzerias, many of them which launched years after the peak migration of New Yorkers.
In New York, pizza is practically a religion with nearly than 1700 restaurants in “Metropolis” containing the words “pizza” or “pizzeria” in their name. Not even in terms of per-capita can Rio Rancho boast of such pizza prominence, but it can sing the praises of highly regarded New York style pizzerias Sal-E-Boy’s Pizzeria and Venezia’s Pizzeria as well as a very popular gourmet pizza interloper, Turtle Mountain Brewing Company and Dion’s, a local chain.
Add Davido’s Pizza & More to the list of Rio Rancho pizzerias with a claim to the New York pizza heritage. The family patriarch (not named Davido) is indeed a transplanted New Yorker though it is his daughter and son-in-law who own and manage the restaurant. The restaurant opened in April, 2008. Davido’s was initially situated just about as far north as you can go in Rio Rancho before you’re on Santa Ana Pueblo. It made Placitas, Bernalillo, Santa Ana Pueblo and northern Rio Rancho happy that they no longer had to order pizza from nearby chains Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s.
In February, 2013, Davido’s moved to a more centrally located location in Rio Rancho. Now situated on heavily trafficked Southern Boulevard, Davido’s now occupies the space previously occupied by Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus and prior to that Rocco’s Pizzeria. All vestiges of Dagmar’s are completely gone. In terms of ambiance, you can probably describe Davido’s as “utilitarian.” With only one two-person table for diners to sit, it’s designed as a take-out and delivery operation. Utilitarian does not, however, mean impersonal. Davido’s remains a family-owned, family-operated restaurant run by a very nice family which appreciates your business.
The “more” in the restaurant’s name includes five different salads, sandwiches (6-, 9- or 12-inch), stromboli and calzones. The appetizer line-up features bread sticks, cheese bread sticks and wings. For dessert there is cheesecake, chocolate cake, cannoli, fruit cup and tiramisu. Pizzas come in three sizes–12-, 18- and 24-inches. Features pizzas include the Mexican (refried beans, green chili, mozzarella, Cheddar, lettuce and tomato), the Hawaiian (Canadian bacon and pineapple), the Greek (garlic sauce, spinach, mozzarella, black olive, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta), BBQ chicken, veggie and even a Pizza Bianca (no red sauce).
No pizza menu would be complete without a pizza adorned solely with cheese. Some purists will argue that the crusty canvas needs no other topping. Davido’s cheese pizza is very good. Sauce is slathered on generously, but not so much that it overwhelms the rest of the pizza. The crust is chewy and pliable; you can easily fold it over vertically the way some New Yorkers like to eat their pizzas.
A combination pizza I recommend with great enthusiasm includes green chile, black olives, sausage, white onions and garlic. Davido’s uses a garlic paste instead of minced garlic, but it’s got plenty of garlicky zest. The green chile would barely register on any piquancy scale, but it has a nice flavor. The sausage has nearly as much piquant bite as does the green chile.
Right out of the oven, the crust has the intoxicating, memory-triggering aroma of baked bread. The edges are thick and have plenty of air holes, but what they have most of is the flavor of bread just out of the oven. There’s relatively little black char on the bottom of the crust. It’s a good pizza Rio Rancho will love and for which Placitas pizza aficionados such as my friend Dave will drive just a bit further.
5 April 2013: They’ll also love the Stromboli, an Italian turnover stuffed with various cheeses, vegetables and meats. Carnivores will gravitate to one called simply “Meaty” because that’s what engorges its golden sheened crust. The meats include pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage and spicy ground beef topped with melted mozzarella. Omnivores who like a lot of vegetables with their meats will enjoy the Italian Stromboli which is stuffed with finely chopped green pepper, white onion, black olive with capicola and ham.
5 April 2013: The menu also includes several pastas: spaghetti with bread (to which you can add meatballs), ravioli, fettuccini Alfredo (to which you can add grilled chicken), lasagna and baked ziti. The lasagna portion is large enough for two, not that you’d want to share. It’s layers of pasta, ground beef and melted mozzarella slathered with a rich, red sauce. The ground beef is nicely seasoned and the sauce straddles a fine line between sweet and savory. It’s a surprisingly good lasagna considering it won’t be quite as oven warm when you get it home.
27 April 2013: Sandwiches for all weather are a popular draw. Summertime means cold sandwiches such as the Italian (prosciutto, capicola, salami) which is available in six-, nine- or twelve-inch sizes. Sandwiches are crafted with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone and your choice of mayo, mustard or Italian dressing and a bag of chips. The Italian is terrific and it starts with an excellent bread canvas. The bread is soft and chewy, more than formidable enough to hold in all the flavors. In the winter, you’ll want a hot hero: meatball, chicken parmesan, sausage parmesan, eggplant parmesan or sausage, peppers and onions. The hot heroes are available only in six-inch size.
27 April 2013: Michael Gonzales, the affable owner of Cafe Bella and a classically trained chef with serious kitchen cred, is a huge fan of one of the smallest items on the Davido’s menu. That would be pizza pinwheels, an appetizer available in quantities of six or twelve. Pizza pinwheels resemble cinnamon rolls, but instead of icing, these scrumptious spirals are “iced” with tomato sauce and cheese. As with much of the Davido’s menu, what makes these special is the delicious bread on which they’re made. These soft pinwheels are absolutely addictive.
12 February 2014: One of the highlights of serving as a judge at the 2014 Taste of Rio Rancho was the opportunity to sample some of the City of Vision’s very best foods, some of which were new to me. At the risk of losing my impartiality, one of my very favorite entries was the New Mexican Cheesesteak from Davido’s. “What,” you ask “is a New Mexico cheesesteak?” It’s essentially a Philly cheesesteak on a tortilla with the uniquely New Mexico touch (never mind what the mayor of Denver says) of green chile. More than the sum of its components, it’s sheer deliciousness: lean beef, ribbons of not-quite-caramelized onions, fragrant green peppers, molten white cheese and pleasantly piquant green chile. The tortilla is bursting at the seams with a moist, flavorful Cheesesteak our state legislature should consider for candidacy as the official New Mexico state sandwich.
12 February 2014: In addition to the New Mexico Cheesesteak, Davido’s offers a Philly Cheesesteak that hearkens back to the days of its predecessor tenant, Rocco’s Pizza. Call it heresy if you will, but Davido’s Philly might be better than Rocco’s. I can only say “might be” because my Kim would only give me one bite of her sandwich. The most obvious difference from Rocco’s is the moistness and texture of the beef. Where Rocco’s used waifishly thin shaved beef, Davido’s slices its beef into strips, retaining moistness and flavor. The creamy white cheese is rich and unctuous, so much better than the Cheez Whiz you’ll find on South Philadelphia’s mean streets.
Davido’s Pizza & More has given Rio Rancho residents another New York inspired pizza and so much more restaurant to call its own.
Davido’s Pizza & More
2418 Southern Blvd
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 12 February 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Cheese Pizza (by the slice), Pizza, Cannoli, Meat Stromboli, Italian Stromboli, Lasagna, Italian Sandwich, Pizza Pinwheels, New Mexico Cheesesteak, Philly Cheesesteak