Lick the Plate

Pizzeria owner’s journey from the Midwest

The back story on Palomar Pizza & Pasta is a good one, so bear with me while I condense it into a couple of paragraphs. Royal Oak, Mich., native Jim Klemmer grew up next door to me on our idyllic Midwestern street and has been a good friend since the beginning. We did all the normal Midwest stuff growing up like Big Wheels, ten-speeds and kickball. But for some reason we took an early interest in surfing that did not fit in at all with our environment. We attribute it to the coverage of the Pipeline Classic on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Fast forward a few years and we found ourselves surfing the Great Lakes and various East Coast spots and becoming slightly addicted to the sport.
After college, Jim worked his way out west and landed in Encinitas, which in our minds was surfing nirvana. He not only landed in Surf City, but he lived in one of the most famous houses in town, the SS Encinitas, one of the classic boat houses on Third Street. He quickly scored a job in the kitchen at the old Kansas City BBQ, then landed at Leucadia Pizzeria where he quickly worked his way up to manager, a position he held for nine years. It
was always a treat for me to visit Jim and hang in the surreal boat house, surf boneyard, and enjoy the plentiful and delicious food from Leucadia Pizzeria. I became so enamored with Encinitas I followed him out here soon after.
Jim had the quintessential old school Encinitas lifestyle going on. Between living in the boat house and having killer surf, work, and the classic Saloon within walking distance, his world was condensed into a little slice of paradise. I’ll admit I was a little jealous of the simplicity of it all, though running the bustling Leucadia Pizzeria provided its share of stress.
Everything changed quite drastically for Jim in 2002. During the course of one year he met his wife Sherri who was working at Leucadia Pizzeria, got married, had a daughter Grace, and opened Palomar Pizza & Pasta. My “dude sanctuary” in the funky boat community was no more but Jim was on his way to bigger and better things with his own restaurant. He added another daughter Charlotte a few years back and has made the complete transformation from boat house local to successful entrepreneur, husband, and family man quite nicely.
While his location on the Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos border was like a different world from old Encinitas, it proved to be a smart location with homes and businesses popping up everywhere. With Sherri handling the marketing, the restaurant got off to a fast start staying busy during the day with business orders and a brisk dining room lunch crowd and evenings with deliveries and carry-outs. Jim put his own touch on what he learned at Leucadia Pizzeria and his mix of Italian American favorites has developed a loyal following in the area. Catering has also proven to be a big hit with local schools and businesses keeping them busy nights and weekends. I booked his dining room for a recent Celebration of Solar seminar and dinner for Stellar Solar and they handled the crowd of 50 with ease.
Menu favorites include the Italian wedding soup, Minestrone soup and buffalo wings from the appetizers, all of which are under $7.00. The salads have developed quite a following and with good reason as they are all hearty, fresh, and include a good mix of lettuce and pasta. The Philly steak salad is an innovative twist on the Philly cheese steak with thinly sliced steak, feta cheese, red onions, black olives, tomatoes and your choice of dressings. All of the salads are very affordable coming in under $7.
They have a long list of pasta specialties and favorites including a standout lasagna, pasta primavera, and chicken parmesan and pesto chicken and whole wheat pasta as an option. None of the pasta selections top $12 which is a great value for what you get. The subs are near and dear to my heart as Jim has included a pizza sub which was inspired by one of our late night college hangouts back in Michigan and his meatball sub which include an old school recipe for meatballs that are out of this world. The subs come in 6 inches for around $6 and 12-inch sizes which are priced below $10. Again, a great value for the portion.
The pizzas are the stars though and the standard version has a nice New York thinness to it and a combination of sweet and smoky sauce that is so addictive. There are fifteen varieties to choose from though including a wheat crust and a huge selection of toppings. Daily lunch specials are available and a full desert menu. Beer and wine is available and of course they deliver.
After eight years in business, Palomar Pizza & Pasta has stood the test of time and delivers consistently good food at very reasonable prices. If it’s a choice between a family owned place like this with a good story behind it or some chain with no personality, I’ll go with the good story every time. They are located at 3265 Business Park Drive in Vista at the corner of Palomar Airport and Business Park Road. Call (760) 727-5559 or check them out at . Hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday from 11a.m. to 8 p.m.

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1 comment

EMIZME August 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

If you’re ever back in Michigan, there are a couple of slavic places I’d love to take you to. I’m quite the foodie:)Contact me at if you’re interested.

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