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Lovin’ From The Oven
Family-owned pizza restaurant keeps community fed
By Jessica Laskey
It’s no surprise to learn Shelly Tyler and Wendy Williams love pizza. They eat it at least twice a week.
The two best friends are co-owners of Wenelli’s Pizza, an Arden Arcade favorite since 1992. They hit it off when they shared a class at American River College. When Williams got a summer job working for Round Table Pizza at Waterworld (a defunct water park at Cal Expo), she encouraged Tyler to come work with her.
They climbed the food chain to management when they heard the Round Table at 4215 Arden Way was in a bankruptcy sale.
“We figured it was time to go out on our own,” Williams says. The women “borrowed from everybody” they knew, put in an offer and landed the location that would become Wenelli’s. (Yes, the name sounds almost Italian because it’s a combination of the proprietors’ first names.)
“When you’re a franchise, you have to do what they want,” Williams says. “When you’re independent, you can do what you want, how you want. We wanted to create our own recipes, our own interpretation.”
Tyler and Williams researched original recipes, many of which are named for family members and local hotspots like “Garlic of the Gods,” an homage to Arden Arcade’s Garden of the Gods neighborhood. They had their own spice blend created to season the sauce. Every ingredient is prepped, grated, chopped and cooked by hand onsite in an old-fashioned pizza oven.
“It takes longer but you can really tell the difference,” Williams says. “A lot of regulars will come in early, have a beer or a glass of wine, watch a sports game and unwind while they’re waiting for their pizza. That’s the way to do it.”
Over the last 30 years, staff and families have grown. Williams and Tyler even had their sons one day apart. But they are still in the restaurant daily, covering for each other on days off.
Though they don’t get much BFF time, Williams says they “know each other so much, we don’t have to tell each other what to do. It’s very relaxing when we work together.”
Three decades is a long time in the restaurant business. There have been challenges, but Tyler and Williams say they owe their success to the community.
“The neighborhood really supported us through COVID,” Williams says. “That’s why we wanted this funky little pizza shop in the first place, because we knew how wonderful everyone around us is. We’re very grateful.”
For information, visit wenellispizza.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.