Restaurants opening, adapting as pandemic wears on

A take-and-bake pizza from newly opened American Pizza Mfg. in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of James Tran)

News on American Pizza Mfg., California Taco Club, Cafe on Park, Island Prime and more


It has taken more than two years for Andrew Melone to open his long-anticipated American Pizza Mfg. restaurant in La Jolla, but the Bird Rock resident said the timing of his July 22 grand opening may be just right. American Pizza is a take-and-bake pizza and pasta restaurant where customers preorder a custom-built pie that they pick up, then bake at home in their kitchen oven.

“It was always our intention to open much earlier, but as it turns out, our business model — in light of everything going on — is positioned well for COVID. We never intended to open in a pandemic, but it might be a fortuitous break for us,” Melone said.

While living in Chicago several years ago, Melone discovered a similar concept, HomeMade Pizza Co., and was so impressed by the quality of the pies that he became an investor. But the company collapsed in 2014 due to overly ambitious expansion plans. Melone said he always hoped to create a similar concept of his own. After returning to his native Southern California a few years ago, he settled on a former liquor store space at 7402 La Jolla Blvd. for his first location.

Melone said the biggest hurdle to overcome with customers is convincing them that his fresh-made pizzas don’t taste like bland, freezer-burned frozen pies. He said the scratch ingredients he uses are never frozen, have no preservatives and are prepared to order, and the shop’s proprietary dough recipe is designed to slow-bake into a pizzeria-worthy chewy, airy crust in just 10 to 15 minutes in a 425-degree oven.

The menu features seven custom pizzas and a build-your-own topping option ranging from $13 for a 12-inch cheese pizza to $23 for the 14-inch Edsel pie with wild mushrooms, truffle oil and Parmesan cheese. There are also entree salads and two house-made pasta dishes: a mac-n-cheese side for two for $11 and lasagna for four for $28. The restaurant also has a fresh-baked pizza-size chocolate chip cookie and pints of ice cream from JoJo’s Creamery in Encinitas.

If the business is successful, Melone said he hopes to expand to a total of five stores in San Diego County in five years, with the La Jolla flagship serving as the central commissary kitchen. For details and ordering information, call (858) 246-6756 or visit

Breakfast Republic opens walk-up taco shop

As part of a multi-pronged pandemic-inspired move to open grab-and-go restaurant options, Johan Engman of Rise & Shine Hospitality Group has opened California Taco Club, a walk-up Mexican food service window at the Pacific Beach location of his Breakfast Republic restaurant at 4465 Mission Blvd. The eatery serves tacos, burritos, ceviches and housemade horchata for takeaway and patio seating. This follows Engman’s opening of three Eggies walk-up breakfast sandwich shops around San Diego since May. Visit

Cohn moves Island Prime to floating deck

With its San Diego Bay-view restaurant Island Prime restaurant closed due to countywide health orders, but Cohn Restaurant Group has kept the restaurant afloat by moving its tables and chairs outdoors to the adjacent Harbor Float, a party-deck annex of its floating Coasterra restaurant and special event space at 880 Harbor Island Drive in San Diego. With seating for 68, the new alfresco Island Prime is serving a limited menu of Island Prime favorites including Kumai oysters, lemon ricotta-stuffed zucchini and filet mignon trio. Visit

The new pantry wall at Homestead Solana Beach.
(Courtesy photo)

Restaurants open pantries to boost takeout business

Homestead Solana Beach and The Gluten Free Baking Co. in North Park have adapted to the pandemic by permanently transitioning a portion of their space into pantries selling grocery items for grab-and-go sales.

Homestead, a 2-year-old cafe at 346B S. Cedros Ave. owned by Jamie and Marie Brawn of Leucadia, has converted part of its indoor seating area into a high-end bodega selling fresh produce, eggs, pasta, milk, canned goods, deli items, wine, beer and household items. It is still serving a reduced menu of its sandwiches, salads and famed gluten-free waffles. Visit

Roanna Canete opened Gluten Free Baking at 4594 30th St. just weeks before the pandemic hit. She has since revamped her menu to bake more of the gluten-free baked goods that gluten-intolerant customers can no longer find in stores. She also has built an in-store pantry selling gluten-free foods and ingredients for home cooks. Visit

Ballast Point’s Downtown Disney location reopens

Although Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure theme parks have yet to reopen to the public, the adjacent shopping district in Anaheim known as Downtown Disney has begun gradually reopening this month.

Among the latest reopenings is Ballast Point Brewing Company, a brew pub featuring California cuisine and beers made by the San Diego brewery. It joins newly reopened Tortilla Jo’s, a Mexican restaurant, and California Sole, a footwear company.

For more, visit

Kragen writes about restaurants for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at