Teenage mutant ninja pizza

Semenza’s Pizzeria is just the kind of place for clientele like the young Galilea Navarro Diaz, whose opinion of the pizza is all over her face.

Semenza’s Pizzeria is just the kind of place for clientele like the young Galilea Navarro Diaz, whose opinion of the pizza is all over her face.

Photo By David Robert

Semenza’s Pizzeria

4380 Neil Rd.
Reno, NV 89502

(775) 825-4142

Hanging just inside the door at Semenza’s Pizzeria are autographed photos of action movie stars like Sly Stallone and Steven Seagal. The photos are addressed to Semenza’s owner, Rudi Semenza. Seagal, who, as you may know, is a reincarnated Buddhist lama, seems to be a special favorite. Mounted on the wall, in a place of honor befitting such a venerated spiritual leader, is a movie poster for the Seagal masterpiece Half Past Dead.

This unabashed admiration of a PG-13 action star is indicative of the sort of adolescent fun that makes Semenza’s appealing. There’s a relaxed, clubhouse atmosphere, and the food is puerile but enjoyable. The walls are covered with wood paneling and posters, and the tables are all of the wooden picnic variety and coated in what my friend Paul described as “years of shellac.” It’s the friendly neighborhood pizzeria for the populous Neil Road area—and because that population is largely Spanish-speaking, the menu is bilingual.

Paul and I stopped in to while away a few hours over beers and grub. It’s a nice little hideout for wasting an afternoon. We had two small pizzas: the Mexican (with refried beans, black olives, beef, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño for $12.80) and a pesto and pepperoni ($12.80). The Mexican pizza is a culinary fusion that doesn’t quite work for me, but neither pizza was half bad. And the crusts are real tasty, if you like them thick and doughy. It’s certainly not gourmet fare, but it’s good. One gets the distinct impression that the pizza would be much better after a baseball game.

Paul and I got into an argument because I wanted to order some chicken wings.

“Chicken wings are gross,” said Paul. “I don’t like the vinegar, and I don’t like to have to eat the meat off a bone.”

I told him to stop complaining—eating meat off the bone was what being a meat-eater was all about.

“No way,” said Paul. “And don’t put anything about this in your article because you always get my quotes wrong. You’ll probably say that you were here with a girl named Paulina and that she loves to suck the meat off the bone.”

So Paulina and I ordered a dozen chicken wings ($6.50). They fulfilled the first criteria of good chicken wings: They were incredibly messy. I went through about three dozen paper napkins and finally just got up to wash my hands. But they weren’t entirely up to my standards. They weren’t nearly meaty or juicy enough, and they were nowhere near hot enough.

Semenza’s is surely a popular destination for Patriots from nearby Pine Middle School. The fare is well suited to the cravings of kids in their awkward phases. It’s perfect pizza for the pizza-faced. And the kick-back neighborhood/clubhouse atmosphere is made all the better by the presence of pinball machines and old arcade games, including a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. (Leonardo and the gang would love this place.) I would’ve thought Semenza’s was totally radical when I was 13—and even now, Paulina and I agree that it’s pretty cool.