May 3, 2022 – Tricycle Pizza has a new outpost and it’s already doing a brisk business.
The entirely to-go shop at 1950 Fremont Blvd. in Seaside was bustling on a Friday evening, which meant my two pies—which, like all those on offer, are 10 inches wide and composed of eight slices—would take at least 30 minutes to be ready. The kind clerk manning the point-of-sale handed me a pager and I rode my tricycle up the block to say hi to a friend. (OK it’s not a tricycle but it is a collapsible electric bike with tiny tires, so it feels a little like a little kiddie trike.)
The white truffle and sausage pizza was worth the wait. It’s an earthy and indulgent tastebud tryst starring an EVOO base, mushrooms, tasty fennel sausage, various organic herbs, white truffle oil and three cheeses (Parmesan, fontina and mozzarella). The wood-fired char and texture on the chewy crust are dialed intelligently too.
The chicken pesto with provolone, mozzarella, Parmesan, corn, tomatoes over pesto sauce wasn’t as memorable, but still got the job done.
Both started out as specials and were so well-received they migrated to the mainstream menu. (By the way, next week’s special sounds promising. It’s a carnitas taco-inspired number with marinated pork, fresh salsa, cilantro and queso fresco.)
Owner-operator Danica Alvarado has a nose for good sturdy combinations built from well-sourced ingredients, like the pepperoni and jalapeño with cherry and green spicy peppers.
“If I don’t love a pizza, it’s not going on the menu, and we really pay attention to customer feedback,” she says. “When something is made simple with care and love—and by hand—it will taste better than adding two pounds of cheese and two pounds of pepperoni.”
It shouldn’t be too stunning that Tricycle has fast found a strong following, thanks to an earlier iteration that converted the former gas station on the border of Pacific Grove and Monterey into a hip pizza corner.
“We’re getting a new crowd along with our past customers,” Alvarado says.
When the lease at Lighthouse and David came up for renewal, she found herself at a crossroads. She had the means to either re-up or start developing a line of retail frozen pizzas, but not both. She focused on the frozen frequency, which she seemed to know once COVID hit.
Or perhaps spiritual is a better descriptor.
“At the time it was either or,” she says. “I knew I could always come back to a restaurant, and in the end I’m a person of faith, so I prayed about it for a while and, looking back, it ended up being a great move, since a year and a half later shutdowns hit.”
Tricycle “take-and-heat” pizzas first appeared at Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market and Cornucopia Community Market in Carmel—“We started small as always, baby steps,” Alvarado says—and now can be found at Star Market, The Butcher’s Son, Grove Market, RawASF, Nielsen Brothers Market, Russo’s Wholesale Produce, Elroy’s Fine Foods, Pezzini Farms and the Seaside shop where they make them. Meanwhile online vegan broker GTFO takes her animal-product-free versions and ships them nationwide.
Both the fresh and frozen vegan options get at what modern audiences want, namely meat-free and plant-based options that are, rather than an afterthought, thoughtfully done. Those facets of the menu include pizzas like a vegan white truffle and a vegan chorizo and kale.
“We have expanded that,” Alvarado says. “That sector has been growing quite a bit.”
Sales and marketing exec Mark Zielinski of Pebble Beach calls himself a devoted customer who’s tracked them for years, from New Monterey to their former production facility in Sand City to pop-ups at Post No Bills Craft Beer House to Seaside.
“Their pizza is differentiated by the quality of ingredients and wood-fired stove,” he says. “It’s unique. I hate to say I’m a pizza lover, but maybe I’m becoming one. There are a whole lot of elements to their business that I admire. For me, they’re on a pill by themselves.”
Beyond the pizzas there’s also a limited amount of bonuses like garlic bread, spicy chili oil, flourless chocolate tortes and berry panna cotta.
Alvarado seems simultaneously patient and ambitious about the homespun and family-owned-and-staffed operation, with modest operating hours to match (3-8pm Wednesday-Friday).
“It’s gradually grown, organically,” she says. “We take on as much as we can.”
Which has made for quite the tricycle ride.
More at tricyclepizza.com.