If you were a high school or college-aged kid in ’80s and ’90s Reno, chances are you probably spent some time at Semenza’s. It’s the kind of place that attracts hungry kids with a hankering for salt, carbs and cheese. By way of full disclosure, I have a few blurry memories of beer-soaked meals there as a young adult, but that was a long time ago. I’d heard the original family sold the place to one of their employees, so, on a whim, my dining group and I decided to check it out.
The service was really fast, especially for a pizza joint during dinner rush. Everything we ordered was served up in about 20 minutes, starting with an order of cream cheese jalapeño poppers ($7.60, eight pieces). They probably came from a box, but they were exactly what we were after—hot, gooey, crunchy and spicy. Along with those bites, we ordered a basket of French fries ($3.75), which were crispy, well salted, and instantly reminded me of a certain famous fast food fry. If you’d served them to me without knowing their origin, I’d have sworn golden arches were involved.
There are just two sandwiches available so we tried both ($8 each, with a bag of chips). The sub sandwich involved an eight-inch Italian roll stuffed with ham, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, onion, tomato, oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning and shredded mozzarella. It was OK, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I didn’t detect a lot of seasoning, and the cheese just made me wish for provolone. However, the oven-baked sub was crazy good. Essentially, it’s pizza in a roll—with a choice of up to five toppings, slathered with pizza sauce and mozzarella. It’s fired in the oven until the whole thing becomes a crunchy, cheesy, zesty delight. That sandwich could be habit forming.
Our order of chicken wings ($24, three pounds) put a huge, saucy smile on my face. They were about average size and deep-fried crispy—the way god intended—with a spot-on Buffalo-style hot sauce. Also available in mild, medium, nitro and honey barbecue, there’s really nothing more I can say other than, “Yes, please.”
Last up, a pair of 12-inch medium pizzas—one plain cheese ($12.81) and the other a classic combo with pepperoni, sausage, salami, black olive, onion, mushroom and bell pepper ($17.34). The crust was what I’d call medium thick, essentially what I most expect when ordering a “West Coast” pie. It won’t win any awards, but it was nice and crispy on the bottom and served its purpose well. The sauce was classic hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, nothing fancy but with all the flavors that should be in there. Between the two pies, I preferred plain cheese, especially when combined with those great wings. It kind of cuts the heat in between bites of spicy meat. And when paired with beer, it’s one of the best, most honest meals I can think of. What’s not to love?
The menu also includes other sides including garlic knots, garlic bread, cheese bread, onion rings, cheese sticks and zucchini sticks, but we were already at maximum carbohydrate overload by the end of our well-enjoyed meal.