My dad taught me very early on that all people have inherent worth and dignity and are deserving of respect and kindness. A lifelong educator, he had a knack for reaching students deemed incorrigible or unteachable–students the “system” would just as soon discard. During his funeral nearly forty years ago, these were the students who cried hardest. They had just lost their biggest advocate, a teacher who believed in them, at times more than they believed in themselves. What set my dad apart from other teachers is that he demanded–and consequently received– no less than the best effort a student could put forth. He tried to instill that attitude in all students–demand the best of yourself, strive to achieve as much as you can. For my dad, they did. They reveled in making “Mr G.” proud of them.
American historian Henry Adams once said “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.” Almost invariably when we visit Peñasco, one of his former students approaches me with stories of the work and life skills they learned from my dad. Their gratitude is heartfelt and deep. One developmentally challenged and very sheltered student recalled how she had never left the small village in which she grew up save for taking the bus to school every day, a ten-mile trek. When my dad sponsored a trip to the New Mexico state fair, he visited her parents to assure them he would personally watch over their precious daughter. Thirteen hours later when he delivered her home, the wide-eyed young lady regaled her family with stories about the big city and all the amazing things she had seen and done. As his eldest scion, I can’t help but be very proud of such an amazing dad.
My dad would have loved Restoration Pizza, a new concept from the founders of the Bosque Brewing Company. This is a pizzeria trying to make a difference in the community. That difference is that it’s providing opportunities for employees who might otherwise not have the chance to show their capabilities and desire to show they can add value. Between 50 and 70 percent of Restoration Pizza’s staff is made up of people with physical and mental disabilities–the type of people my dad would have treated with the dignity and respect they deserve; the type of people he would have groomed to work hard and succeed to the best of their capabilities. It’s apparent the dignity of all people is important to the ownership group. At the risk of sounding cliche, Restoration Pizza will restore your faith in people.
If, like me, you believe pizza also has restorative powers, especially after a rough day, Restoration Pizza is the type of place you might want to call your own. Its mission statement is “to give back to the community, by creating a place and space in which people can gather to eat, drink, laugh and be comfortable.” Restoration Pizza is situated in a 3,400 square-foot property within the cozy confines of the Legacy at Journal Center, a development which also houses Cabela’s. The interior is somewhere between industrial chic and rustic casual. An open kitchen provides an excellent vantage point of pizza being made from scratch. A capacious east-facing dog-friendly patio with spectacular views of the Sandias is best experienced in the late afternoon and evening after the sun has made its rotation past six o’clock in the sky.
Service is prompt and welcoming with an incorporated staff of servers and “differently abled” employees at your beck and call. This tandem service model really works well. Whether you need a refill or an additional napkin, it’s ferried to your table promptly and with a smile. Visit Monday through Friday for lunch and you can partake of a lunch buffet replete with pizza and salad or you can order from a menu all pizza aficionados will appreciate. The menu starts with “something to share,” six appetizers that pair well with pizza. Shareables range from antipasti skewers to nachos. They’re the preliminary to the main event, five classic pizzas or five gourmet signature pizzas all available at twelve- or sixteen-inch sizes. A “build your own” option allows you to pick your crust, base (red sauce, olive oil or basil pesto) and cheeses (mozzarella or ricotta) and up to five toppings.
Writer Daniel Handler likened meatballs to miracles “because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear. One bite of Restoration Pizza’s savory meatballs (with red sauce, shredded Parmesan and basil) was all it took to convince us all meatballs should be made like these. Picture three per order meatballs, each roughly the size of a baseball, on your plate and it might inspire debates as to how (or whether) to share the third. These are seriously great melt-in-your-mouth meatballs, both hefty and light and tender enough you could cut them with a spoon. They practically weep juices when you bite into them. The red sauce has a nice combination of sweet and savory notes.
My Kim’s inaugural pizza artistry at Restoration Pizza was a build-your-own creation starting with a traditional crust canvas topped with both red sauce and an olive oil base with garlic and Italian seasonings (I’m still trying to figure that out), sausage and mozzarella. It’s a nice pizza, but our druthers would have been for more sauce and less cornicione (an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza). This is a classic thin-and-crispy pie and like most pies of that type, is prone to dryness. A plentiful coverage of sausage helps.
My pizza, the La Luz (red sauce, mozzarella, thick-cut smoked bacon, red onions, spinach and ricotta) came from the gourmet signature pizza menu. As with my Kim’s build-your-own pie, a bit more sauce covering more of the cornicione was our sole complaint and that’s more a matter of personal preference than it is an indictment. There is much to like about this pizza, particularly the thin and crispy crust and the thick-cut bacon (though can you possibly ever have enough bacon). The pairing of ricotta and spinach is popular across several Italian dishes and for good reason. It’s one of those pairings in which two ingredients just seem tailor-made for each other.
Share a pizza and a great time with your dad at Restoration Pizza, the type of fun, lively restaurant that just might restore your energy after a rough day and restore your faith in humanity every time you visit.
5161 Lang Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 20 April 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Savory Meatballs, La Luz, Build Your Own Pizza