When I was little, my brother had a job at a mom and pop pizza place. It was owned by a guy named Tony, and he made amazing pizza. Think simple red and white checked tablecloths and drinks in cans you picked out from the cooler. Also, Tony made me my own little cheese pizza that I didn’t have to share, which I probably only ate one piece of and not the crusts. And thinking back on that, my brother probably made that for me, not Tony. It didn’t matter who made it, that small cheese pizza started my love affair with pizza.
Over the years, I have had a lot of pizza, to many slices to count, some good, some fancy, some pretty, pretty bad. But every once in awhile, I will have a slice that reminds why I fell in love in the first place. On Wednesday night, I had that slice.
Smiling With Hope Pizza opened a few months ago in the Lakeside Center in Reno. Tucked in the corner near the cleaners, this little shop is serving some of the best pizza in the Washoe Valley.
What makes Smiling With Hope special is summed up in their mission statement – pizza with a cause, to create hope and meaning in the lives of people with disabilities. Owned by Walter and Judy Gloshinski, the goal of this family business is to give developmentally disabled hands-on work experience.
Walter spent 22 years developing award-winning pizzeria and bakery programs in Ohio, Texas and California public schools that focused on training students with disabilities for competitive work. Jonathan L. Wright at the Reno Gazette Journal did an excellent story on Walter’s background this week. I encourage you to read it to understand more about how Walter and Judy work with the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, a division of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to train their employees in the art of pizza making.
So you are thinking, what a nice concept, but is the pizza any good? The pizza is spectacular; I mean Walter comes from New Jersey pizza royalty. No offense to my friends who enjoy a Chicago-style pie, which, while it has its merits, to me more of a meal than a slice. This pizza is like Tony made, only much, much better.
A few nights ago, we met some friends who are huge Smiling With Hope fans for pizza night. You can smell the fresh garlic and oregano before you open the door. The set up is simple, tables with red-and-white checked tablecloths, walls lined with art made by the kids that work there. You order at the counter, get your drinks from the cooler, and then find a table.
The menu is straightforward, a classic New York-style, thin crust pizza or a thick-crust, pan-baked Sicilian pizza. Looking for something a little more special, they also have a Ricotta New York and Ricotta Sicilian, both amazing. Toppings are traditional. You can also get calzones, a mixed green salad, garlic knots and pepperoni rolls that are so good my friend Lisa might have to move back to Reno for them.
So what is so good about the pizza? Walter and Judy are dedicated to using only the best ingredients, so that cheese, it is whole milk mozzarella and fresh, whole milk ricotta; the Parmesan and Pecorino are imported. The sausage is house made. The herbs are fresh. And the pizza dough is made daily and baked, so it is perfectly crisp. Each bite is delicious, even the plain crust is lovely.
The Ricotta Sicilian is a white-sauce style pizza, think an amazingly soft but crisp crust is topped with fresh garlic sauce then those fresh cheeses I mentioned above and some fresh basil. Sounds simple, right? One bite and you are almost crying it is so good.
Almost every thing is house made. That red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dressing on the salad, it is a secret recipe made by the chef at the Prospector’s Club, whose autistic son’s art hangs on the gallery walls. See local chefs have embraced Smiling With Hope. Some nights you might see a chef from the Eldorado or Southcreek Pizza pitching in during the rush and teaching the staff essential skills.
Need something sweet, Walter bakes fresh chocolate chip cookies with dark chocolate, real butter and vanilla. The cannoli shells are filled with sweetened ricotta, cinnamon and lemon zest. Order some dipped in chocolate to share with the table, or maybe just for you.
We are so lucky Walter and Judy decided to come to Reno, for so many reasons.
Smiling With Hope Pizza
Lakeridge Pointe Shopping Center
6135 Lakeside Drive, Suite 101
Reno, Nevada, 89511
Sunday – Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Friday: Lunch 12-2pm, Dinner 5-8pm