Talking Pizza with Catering Director Hala Ghatta and Restaurant Manager Enrique Flores
1. Tell us about Pizza Palace
Pizza Palace is a cozy, family-friendly restaurant in the heart of San Marco. Think of the homemade meals your grandmother used to make – pizza, pasta, and lasagna. We’ve been serving that same classic Italian food to the people of Jacksonville for 25 years. Our recipes are the secret to our success – we use old family recipes and we’ve kept the restaurant very family-oriented over the years.
2. How long has Pizza Palace been around?
We’ve been around for 25 years – since 1990. Our original location was on King Street, in Riverside. At the time you couldn’t get real, New York-style pizza in Jacksonville, and there was a real need for the type of family-owned, neighborhood pizza place where people could come in, relax, and enjoy themselves.
3. What are some of the changes you've seen in the pizza business over the years?
We’ve seen certain toppings go in and out of style over the years – for example, more people are asking for broccoli, kale, and spinach on their pizza. We’ve also seen white pizzas, like our Pizza Bianca, become popular – when we first opened, no one was making white pizzas. And people are growing more health conscious these days; they’re ordering more salads and soups.
4. Can you tell us about your pizza and what sets it apart from other pizza?
We make New York-style, thin-crust pizza from family recipes – it’s Italian comfort food with a twist. Two things set our pizza apart from anyone else’s: our dough is made fresh every single day, and the mozzarella we use is extremely high quality, with a low moisture content. We use the best mozzarella because it has the ability to melt in a gooey, cheesy way while keeping its flavor and a nice consistency.
5. Do you sell more than pizza?
We offer a variety of Italian foods such as lasagna, chicken parmigiana, ravioli, and calzones that have proven to be just as popular as our pizzas. We also offer lighter entrees such as salads, soups, and sandwiches.
6. Do you offer gluten free pizza?
No, in order to be truly gluten-free, it’s important to separate every step of the process – including the workstation where you prepare the food, all tools used, and the serving utensils. We don’t have that kind of space at our restaurant. Even so, our identity has always been tied to classic Italian homemade food, and we believe in staying true to that.
7. What's the most popular pizza at Pizza Palace?
Our most popular pizza has always been “The Works” pizza – it’s loaded with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, ham, black olives, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms. The Hawaiian pizza is another favorite. People love our pizzas because the quality of the ingredients is so good – we use fresh toppings, homemade dough, and the best mozzarella cheese.
8. Can you tell us about some of the new items you're introducing?
Every month, we announce a new Pizza of the Month on our Facebook page. It could be an old favorite from our menu, or a new pizza that we came up with in our kitchen. LIKE us on Facebook to stay updated!
9. Can you recommend a few of your favorite items?
The Mediterranean Bread & Dip appetizer is a huge crowd favorite. We call it “doctor’s bread” because there was a doctor in town who used to come in and order it all the time. It’s homemade bread that we serve with a delicious dip of tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Other restaurants have tried to copy this dish over the years, but no one makes it quite the same.
Another favorite is the “Boss Pizza” – it has fresh tomatoes, feta, and mozzarella cheese and comes with a side of marinara sauce. Our staff also loves the Greek pizza, the Spinach pizza, and the Minestrone soup.
10. Where do you see Pizza Palace in the next 5-10 years?
We love the San Marco neighborhood, our customers, and the great local businesses we work with. In the future, we’re planning to still be in our San Marco Square location, with the same family-oriented atmosphere and old-fashioned, delicious food.