A slice of life

A taste of Northern Nevada: Go ahead and dive right into a slice at Pizza Reno.

A taste of Northern Nevada: Go ahead and dive right into a slice at Pizza Reno.

Photo By David Robert

Pizza Reno

26 W. Second St.
Reno, NV 89501

(775) 322-2002

There’s a sign on the wall at Pizza Reno that brags: “Hot Beer, Lousy Food, Bad Service, Welcome!”

And that just about sums it up.

Of the thousands of restaurants I’ve visited in my travels, this might be the one that most accurately fits the description of a hole-in-the-wall. With its long, narrow interior and exposed wiring and piping overhead, it looks like it could have been literally constructed by burrowing into the side of another building.

If it wasn’t for the big, flashing sign outside, it would be like they just snuck the place in overnight and hoped no one would notice.

There’s a huge bar and a smattering of red-checkered tablecloths out in front. When we visited, the jukebox was surreally alternating between the guts of Patsy Cline and the gas of Celine Dion.

The majority of the clientele were solitary men sitting at the bar, watching sports on TV.

“Geez, baby,” said my girlfriend Sara, “You always take me to the best places.”

They do have an excellent collection of Reno memorabilia: matchbooks and poker chips from defunct casinos and a lot of old photographs and vintage Reno Rodeo posters. We sat next to photos of the famous Johnson-Jeffries “Fight of the Century” boxing match held in Reno on July 4, 1910, a great fight the outcome of which precipitated some of the ugliest racist behavior in U.S. history.

The food is mediocre at best. I had the plat du jour: a slice of pepperoni pizza and a Corona for $3.99. Sara had a similar deal at the same price for a slice of cheese pizza and a Bud draft.

The pizza tasted like a million other pizzas from a million other places. We also had an order of eight barbecue chicken wings for $7.49. The wings were tiny and mostly skin and fat. Lousy food indeed, but enjoyable enough if you feel like slumming with authenticity. Pizza Reno also serves ribs, calzones and a line of “gourmet” pizzas.

The service was slow and awkward—our simple order took two people about 10 minutes to write down—though, to be fair, one was a girl just learning the job and, it seemed, also learning English in the process.

The crusty old small-town Nevada vibe is a little strange since the place hasn’t been there for very long. It seems like the third scene in a horror movie, a place where the kids might stop for directions before realizing something is very, very wrong. It has an out-of-this-world feeling, like that transitional space between the normal world and some surreal, creepy nightmare. Like a Twilight Zone without a script.

The description that I’ve so far provided might lead the reader to assume that I did not like Pizza Reno. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Pizza Reno has that special charm possessed by all great dives. And, of course, I also really like horror movies.

I think Sara and I were entirely too sober to properly appreciate its charms. But Pizza Reno is open past midnight on the weekends, so if you’re out bar-hopping around downtown and want some cheap eats, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better atmosphere.