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By Sarah Teran  |  Photos by Monique Kuhlman

It sounds crazy, but not so long ago, Southern Californians didn’t know how to eat pizza.

In 1954, Domenico and Beverly Spano opened Domenico’s on 2nd Street. It was one of the first pizzerias in California. At the top of the menu was a letter from Domenico offering guidance to their diners:

Pick it up in your hands to eat it. Your waitress will be glad to show you the proper way.

“Pizza didn’t come to California until after World War II,” says Mike Rhodes, now-owner of Dominico’s. “Domenico was a New Yorker, and that’s how you eat pizza– with your hands. But the toppings are generous. So that’s probably why people wanted a knife and fork.”

Domenico’s offerings were simple, but they made waves in this beach town. And now, 70 years later, Domenico’s is still at its original location in Belmont Shore, still adding to its legions of loyal customers.

Always staying true to its roots, Domenico’s serves the same from-scratch pizza dough and sauce, and the same large portions. When people come in today, it’s the same pizza they had back in the ‘50s.

It hasn’t been easy sticking to the original recipes, but Mike Rhodes makes it his priority. “We are fortunate that we’ve always had the same supplier. Santa Fe Importers, also from Long Beach, promised us they would keep the same recipes for our meats,” he says. “Even if a single spice becomes unavailable, we search like crazy to find a replacement that is the same. People tell us that the flavors are the same, and it’s the ultimate compliment!”

The most popular item on the menu has always been the ground pepperoni pizza. The ground sausage pizza is a close second, followed by the house special salad with garlic dressing.

“I joke that the dressing isn’t a dressing. It’s a beverage,” says Mike. “People put it on everything. We sell it by the pint and sell 150 jars a week.” 

Since 2004, new items have been added to the Domenico’s menu, but none of the original offerings have ever been removed. Pasta dishes have been extremely popular since they’ve been added, along with entrees, salads, and appetizers like their Giant Meatballs.

“Some of these newer items are now best sellers, and it’s helped us over the years to keep things interesting,” says Mike.

In the late 1960s, the Spano family passed the Domenico’s torch to the Kenyon family, who ran the restaurant for a little over 30 years. It was then that Mike, a restaurant business veteran himself, was told that 80-year old Mrs. Kenyon wanted to retire. In 2004, Mike took over Domenico’s, and the restaurant’s fanbase has kept growing!

“We’ve had amazing loyalty over the years. We’ve had 4 generations of a family at a table dining together. We’ve become a place where people gather for special occasions every year for decades! We feel like an extension of those families.”

Domenico’s 70th anniversary is in late June. Plans are still in the works, and there will be a special celebration for the restaurant’s most loyal customers. Don’t miss out on the festivities! Follow Domenico’s on Instagram:



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