Farewell to Pizza Villa, the Best Damn Pizza Joint in North Texas

Categories: Food News

PizzaVillaSheeshoo.jpg
Flickr user sheeshoo
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, Pizza Villa was calm. The phones were silent, the ovens cooling. The workers stood idly, or else lounged in the otherwise empty booths. The cash register stayed shut.

For a weeknight dinner rush at Richardson's best and probably oldest pizza joint, the silence was bizarre. For New Year's Eve, it was unheard of.

The restaurant had run out of pizza almost two hours earlier, just as it had every day for the previous week. Ever since word had leaked that Pizza Villa, a beloved institution, was closing for good on December 31. Those like me who waited until dinnertime Tuesday to get their fix were out of luck.

The restaurant opened in 1960 and was soon taken over by Don Scott, a chain-smoking Korean War vet. Decades later, around the time he had a massive coronary on the dining room floor, he passed the reins to his son Mark, who has been running it ever since.

Pizza Villa is a bit out of place nowadays, a holdover from a time before Chinese restaurants, sari shops and hookah bars turned its corner of downtown Richardson into a pan-Asian bazaar, and before chain pizzerias exploded on suburban America. The menu has barely changed since the '60s. It still closes every Sunday. Smoking inside is OK. The Scott family will be damned if they're ever going to take credit cards or build a website.

How, then, did they manage to survive for so long in an industry in which the vast majority of businesses collapse after a few months?

It can be tough to explain the allure of Pizza Villa to an outsider. When I worked there, during high school and for a couple of stints after, I had friends who refused to step inside, put off by the haze of cigarette smoke and the way the smell -- a sour mix of tomato sauce, singed provolone cheese and unfiltered Pall Malls -- clung to fabrics and sunk into one's pores. The wooden booths provided minimal physical comfort, and the only attempt at an aesthetic flourish came during the holidays when an itinerant artist would paint a Christmas scene on the front windows.

The cast of characters seemed like they'd been ripped from a short-lived '70s sitcom: Don, whom everyone called Holmes though neither he nor anyone else could remember why, spent his afternoons playing solitaire and waxing endlessly about why he started using provolone over that flavorless mozzarella bullshit; Mrs. Scott, his diminutive but comically hot-tempered Japanese wife; Mark, the son, a proud half-Japanese redneck with a stringy ponytail hanging just below his shoulder blades; and a rotating ensemble of obnoxious high school kids and twenty-something townies whose constant shenanigans would send Mrs. Scott into fits of rage.

The pizza, though, whatever its provenance, was majestic. A thin, hand-made crust, coated with specially seasoned tomato sauce, judiciously layered with cheese and toppings, it baked to a pleasantly savory crispiness. Biting into it, you began to understand why Holmes kept rattling on about provolone cheese.

But lots of places make good pizza. What kept Pizza Villa going for so long -- and what inspired the restaurant's intensely loyal following -- was the Scott family. Their pride in making good pizza and selling it at a fair price was evident and, while their service was never ostentatious, they knew their customers and treated them well. Order a pizza two or three times, and you'd find yourself part of the Pizza Villa fraternity, welcomed by name, inquired after if you were away for too long.

The same went for employees. The pay wasn't magnificent, but it was fair, and the Scotts were devoted to any employee who could work hard and endure some gentle ribbing from Mark. Every Friday and Saturday night after the dinner rush was over, they'd treat everyone to dinner. At Christmas, they'd hand a crisp, $100 bill to each employee.

Often, they were better to employees than they deserved. When, restless and depressed, I took a break from college, they had a job waiting for me. They would have given me a job again after I came back from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail later that year, but I stayed away, first for no explicable reason, then out of guilt for having stayed away for so long.

I missed a lot during my seven-year absence. Holmes died. Mrs. Scott, who lost a leg to diabetes, passed away a few years later. I missed both funerals.

I finally set foot in Pizza Villa again about three months ago, feeling very much like the prodigal son, especially when they shrugged off my absence with a warm greeting, a photocopied program from Mrs. Scott's memorial service and free pizza for me and my two kids.

Little did I know that the seeds of Pizza Villa's demise had already been planted. Though Mark had been in charge of the place for years, the business was in his dad's name. When he died, it passed to Mrs. Scott. When she died, she split it 50/50 between Mark and his brother Wayne.

During my years at Pizza Villa, I never once saw Wayne. Word was he'd stormed out of the place years before during an argument with his dad and never returned. Mark, who's been putting in 70-hour weeks ever since, told me that he wants his brother to give up all or most of his claim to the business. Wayne has refused, leading Mark to shut down.

Pizza Villa's closure may not be permanent. Wayne, once the cash stops flowing, might give in. Mark doesn't expect that to happen, in which case he says he has the will and the cash to start from scratch, probably in the same location (Pizza Villa Inc.'s lease expired on Tuesday), possibly under a new name.

That didn't help me on Tuesday night. With the clock ticking toward 7 p.m., the point my hungry 4-year-old experiences nuclear meltdown, I called in an order to Domino's. The pizza was OK, and it made the kids happy, but as I waited in the narrow, blue-and-red foyer and heard the workers in the back proclaim that the order was ready "for the white guy" up front, I couldn't help but regret not having Pizza Villa.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
68 comments
jim083
jim083

I work at Pizza Villa from 1979 to 1982 in High School.  The Scott's took me in as one of their own and helped me through some of the most challenging times of my childhood.  Even after moving to California in 1983,  I would come back to Richardson every year and never miss coming by to visit Don and Mickey who I continued to call Mr. and Mrs Scott.  Every bite of Pizza Villa Pizza was a memory of working with Mr. Scott and having great conversations,  Mrs. Scott yelling at me about some stupid thing I did as a teenager and Wayne and Mark laughing at me as she did it.  I miss them terribly and sad to see one of the only things that has been constant in my life, go.


My favorite memory was a time when I came into Pizza Villa at Christmas when I was all most 40.  When I walked in,  Mr. Scott was in a panic because the whole family was Christmas shopping, he was alone and had orders for 40 pizza's.  All he said was "Thank God", threw an apron at me and said "get to work".  I had more fun working that afternoon then at the 3 Real Estate Offices I owned.


The scary part was that there were people who recognized me from when I worked there 20 years earlier. I appreciated their concern that the apparently the Real Estate thing in California didn't workout and I had to come back.  :-)

bkhhenry
bkhhenry

Mark, 

We miss coming up and seeing you, sharing stories and getting the best pizza in the world! We are so sorry that your brother is not understanding the "whole" picture... There are people like us (my husband/me/our kids and his family) that have truly grown up eating Pizza Villa pizza and can't stand any other.  Bryan and his family used to get the pizza weekly and his dad would fold his pieces over and eat in half time making the kids so upset that he was getting "more" than they were (so funny)!  When Bryan and I married our very first family meal was Pizza Villa and our favorite (NEVER changing from the normal order) was a Giant with sausage, mushrooms and black olives.  We then passed the tradition of getting pizza to our grand-daughter Ryleigh, who still asks if we are going to go to Pizza Villa and get our favorite (every other weekend). 

It's a SHAME that you had to close the doors given the circumstances and pray that sometime soon you will re-open and share that wonderful pizza with everyone again.  

All in all, we pray for God's grace and peace within your family... That is MOST important.

  Your friends and long time customers (since the beginning in the 60's) - 

Bryan and Mary Henry 

cboughnou
cboughnou

need the sauce recipe AND the crust recipe

yo3a007
yo3a007

Oh yea, on the other corner of that strip mall, Baskin and Robbins opened a store.  Probably killed old man Ashburn's.  Anybody got photos of that strip mall from the 60's-70's

yo3a007
yo3a007

1966-67 That strip mall had Ashburn's Icecream (corner) Pizza Villa and AlJeans chicken.  I remember an employee at Pizza Villa who was the manager and had lost a leg on an aircraft carrier. The owners son use to hang out with his dad. Worked their briefly before working at Ashburn's Icecream (RHS School.)  Bought a small combo pizza there a couple of years ago when I was in town on business. The place looked exactly like it did in 1967 except the counter to the left had been replaced with tables.  Took one slice home.  I always remember it was a pizza that could be eaten two weeks later if you had left it in your car and not get sick.  Ashburn's Ice Cream was known for its "fresh peach."  Cowboy players would come in with the family.  Don Meredith, Hayes.    Remember the RHS working at Pizza Villa and Ashburn's-- Jepson, Oakley, Johnsons, Rusty---


doodlebugrug
doodlebugrug

My Husband introduced me to this amazing place. After hearing Mark talk about the place and it's past I am certain he will reopen. He doesn't seem like a man that takes "NO" as an answer.  Maybe he should rename it "Mark's Pizza Villa" or something to honor his parents hard work. Whatever the name, we will be patiently waiting for our next pizza! I also can say this, if you ask him about Pizza CASA he will most definitely fill you in! They might have had the recipe but they were missing a very important ingredient! Don and his family!

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

something else that occurred to me regarding the history of Pizza Villa. there was a Plano restaurant in the 70's, early 80s called Pizza Casa that had the same style pizza. whoever owned the place had originally been with Pizza Villa, so I'd been told but can't confirm. I can confirm that Casa was as good as Villa's.

joe_m_perez44
joe_m_perez44

FUCK this sucks after pizza casa closed down.

korwen
korwen

I worked at Pizza Villa in High School for two or so years. This article is absolutely right about being family.

For the curious, Don got his nickname around 2000 when three of us kids who worked there for whatever reason thought it would get his goat to call him "Homie D." He just laughed at us and called us idiots, but we wouldn't relent. Eventually it was shortened to Holmes, and I guess we said it enough that Mark caught on with it too and it stuck. He'd still call us idiots, but he'd smile and chuckle when he did, and that's how Holmes got his nickname.

TadBanyon
TadBanyon

The Garland Pizza Villa at Walnut and Jupiter was my first job, in 1976? and still my favorite. Our owner was a guy named Terry, and the Japanese lady staple was named Shigeko. That one probably closed because Terry wasn't exactly the most hands-on owner in the world, and some of his teenage employees took a lot of advantage of the freedom of having the run of the place to themselves each night. When I was there, there were the occasional water fights (dumping buckets of water on each other- Shigeko used to hate coming in the morning after one of those), and more than one hand dipped into the register for a little extra spending cash (not me). Co-employees Brian and Joe and I were all present when a friend of theirs had sex in the bathroom one night with a girl I invited there for just that reason (I also pimped her out to two other friends on two other occasions, but though they both worked at Pizza Villa, their dirty deeds didn't occur there). 

Good times... and yes, I do consider it the best pizza I've ever had. 

jsmith
jsmith

I LOVE Pizza Villa...sad that it is gone..hopefully not for long. I need my Richardson pizza fix

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

Damn! I've passed Pizza Villa every Thursday for the past 25 years while on the way to my weekly lunch meeting at First Chinese BBQ a few block away.

Now I'm bummed I never made it a point to eat there. Their iconic 50's Pizza Villa sign had always caught my eye and piqued my interest. 

Cabe
Cabe

glad to find out about this article & read it. I'm 44 now in the last time and only time I ate pizza villa was 40 years ago. However,I never forgot about the place. Mainly because over the years every time I drove down central before and after the expansion of the freeway they were several store signs I could always count on seeing. one of course was pizza villa and then the shoe store with the large high-heeled shoe sign. the fact that they were neon and unlike other signs in the area I'm sure help them stand out to my eyes even as I advanced past the age of 4. I can still remember very vividly the night my mom dad me and my older brother stopped at Pizza villa after dark one night.I can't remember the time of year but for some reason I think it was around or on a holiday.I remember it wasn't crowded at all and we set waiting to eat in the store where I was introduced for the first to the golf tee puzzle game on a wooden block. I remember my dad explaining to me what it was and playing a couple of games which of course I wasn't very good at but I remember him winning a couple of times. It's a very vivid memory of fluorescent lighting, the neon pink glow outside and the lights of the then 2 lane freeway. I grew up in Garland and Richardson so over the years the quickest access to downtown and everywhere else was to head for central Expressway so every time we got on or off 75 it was usually right there where pizza villa is located. A lot of the other signs I remember of disappeared, Wyatt's Cafeteria and my favorite store ever in existence Sun Rexall. So obviously it has a lot of sentimental value to me and others, even if we didn't frequent the place it all. I'm glad to hear the story of the place & its history. I wish it was under better circumstances and I hope things work out. I promise to take my 5 year old daughter there as soon as they re-open. health codes permitting of course haha

rebelrodsfutb
rebelrodsfutb

It seems I remember my Dad driving to Pizza Villa to get our Friday night pizza back in the 60's, but I was thinking there was a place in Garland. Does anyone remember if there was a Garland location back then?

D.Morris
D.Morris

I worked at the "Villa" my junior and senior year of High School (1973-1974.) Back then there were 3 stores. One as mentioned earlier in the Ridgewood shopping center in Garland. One on Walnut in Garland and of course the Richardson location.I worked at all three of them.Seems like there might have been another at one time before I worked there.. I can't tell you how much love and respect I had, and have for that family.Don taught me a lot about a lot of things. He was also VERY tolerant of myself and the many friends who hung out at the stores. It was...a place to go. He gave me a job, and I always had money in my pocket. The pizza there is made with subtle differences compared to most other restaurants. Those differences create what was still in my opinion the best pizza I've ever had. Lucky for me. I still remember how they were made and even know the sauce recipe.....which is the best. I think they were unknown to many folks because they didn't spend much if anything on advertising. But the thing is, not always, but often they had all the business they could handle and still put out such a quality product. Come on Mark....Open up a new one dammit!

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

You worked at Pizza Villa? damn you, ya pissed me off last week with those Cowboys posts, now you've won my eternal respect.

so sad, just took for granted they would be here forever. in the 70's, weekend nights started here and then to Town North bowling on Spring Valley. also remember Don always had those Rangers games on the radio (back when the Rangers were as pathetic as the Cowboys are now Eric). thanks for this post....don't know what ya got till you lose it.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Grew up in Richardson. Good pizza, not my favorite, but still have a lot of memories related. I wonder if Mark owns the sign because he better do something with it quick because the sign was grandfathered in when The City changed the sign ordinance in the mid '80s, it will probably have to come down now.    


Now a related memory...  late one night shortly after their neighbor Polar Bear Ashburn's ice cream closed for good a couple buddies and I stopped behind the strip center to relieve ourselves by the dumpster. Next to the dumpster were the two sides that made up the shell of the big ice cream cone that made up the Ashburn's sign. Well, alcohol was involved so we decided that we would take the shells home. So here we are driving down Beltline holding a big plastic ice cream cone onto the roof of the car trying not to get pulled over by RPD. We made it. One side broke shortly there after but the other side was used as a wall decoration by one of my buddies for several years.    

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

No picture of the pizza? Somones got to have one somewhere and can post it.

janessacrivera
janessacrivera

Such a shame and so very sad.  From the time I could walk I was climbing on the booth to peer over the counter to watch the pizzas being made, a tradition I passed on to my own child.  I was lucky enough to grab a seat and a pizza a few days before closing.  The massive turnout of people made me teary eyed and proved how very special this place is to so many loyal people.

Thank you to the Scott family & staff for so many years & wonderful memories, hopefully this isn't the end.

linda_irene_2000
linda_irene_2000

If I'm not mistaken Pizza Villa originally opened in Garland in Ridgewood Shopping Center.  Use to go there for to-go pizza.  My sister followed it to the Richardson store.

lrognlie
lrognlie

I can't tell you how many times my life has intersected Pizza Villa. From youth soccer, to adult soccer, coed softball, drinking and all things in between.  RIP Pizza Villa.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

Great story. It is (erm was...) the second oldest restaurant in Richardson. If you worked there you should know that. It was once third for a long time until the Golden Eagle finally succumbed. First now is Del's. Smoking hasn't been allowed since Richardson passed a smoking ordinance. 

I went on New Year's eve. madhouse. At least I got an order in. Some folks were trying to order 5 pizzas at a time to freeze. 

The sign is a classic Richardson landmark. It was a place of the people as any "leadership" in the city probably didn't give a sh** about it. 

llygoden
llygoden

My husband and I had one of our first dates there.  I loved the provolone and how the black olives were sliced in half lengthwise.  Ah well, time marches on.   

username.neil
username.neil

I've never heard of anyone mentioning this place when I asked where the best pizza was. If it was so great I have to assume it would still be open.

TadBanyon
TadBanyon

@bvckvs The Richardson Pizza Villa was operating concurrently with the Walnut & Jupiter location, it wasn't moved from one place to the other. There was also a third store in South Garland at the same time. And the lady who worked days was very meticulous and clean. We mopped every night at closing and if she didm;t like the way it was done, she did it again in the morning and yelled at us when we came in later.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@bvckvs This is absolute rubbish. While I do not know what happened in Garland, I can tell you that Richardson is very active in enforcement of health codes and all kinds of codes for that matter. You have NO idea what you are talking about. Further, he moved the location decades ago! Health codes and all kinds of codes have changed massively in that time. 

Dale.W
Dale.W

@D.Morris You are right about the 3 locations. I worked at Pizza Villa for 2 and a half years beginning in the summer of 1970, just after my sophomore year in high school.  I worked for about 3 months at the Ridgewood location before I moved to the Walnut location.  I worked a handful of times at the Richardson store.  You are dead on about Don being very tolerant of us youngsters who worked for him.  I can remember a few times.....  and the pizza was good because it was made from scratch.  We mixed the dough at night and rolled it out the next morning. We made the sauce, sliced the cheese and pepperoni (and the occasional finger), chopped the onions, bell peppers, cooked the hamburger meat, even the sausage was ground in store from fresh pork by Don himself.  That's what made it so good!  Don sold the Ridgewood and Walnut locations sometime after I left in 1973.  I was fortunate enough to return to the Richardson location about four or five years ago with some former co-workers and high school friends.  There sat Don in a booth and Mark behind the counter.  It was a nice reunion!


I travel down Central Expressway passing Pizza Villa twice a day.  I noticed within the past week that it looked dark, which prompted me to search the internet for information about it and I found this blog.  Sad to confirm my suspicions that it had closed.  I had always meant to stop by again, but alas, it's too late.  Like you, D. Morris, I hope he opens it back up and gives me a second chance.  By the way, does that D. stand for David?


Dale W.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@username.neil Lack of business was not the problem. Familial issues was the problem (and of course that NEVER happens in the restaurant business.) If you had seen the place in the last week you would understand. People were driving in from out of town to get a last pizza. One guy claimed to have driven from Austin. 

TadBanyon
TadBanyon

It was Walnut and Jupiter, and he didnt move, there were three locations open at the same time (a third in South Garland)

fluxvoovoo
fluxvoovoo

@cboughnou @D.MorrisLOL....I'm sorry , But if I remember right Don purchased that sauce recipe from a well known Italian establishment in Dallas. I wrote it down because I knew someday I would want to recreate it for myself. But I could never betray the trust he put in me to keep it secret, and I wouldn't do it now out of respect for him and the rest of his family. I will clue you in on one of the dough tricks though. After you make it let it rise in a bowl, then roll it out, cut out or toss it into a pie shape, cover it with a piece of foil and let it rise one more time. Then it's ready to use. This was never a secret...we did it right there in front of everybody about every day. Take care.


fluxvoovoo
fluxvoovoo

@Dale.W Why yes it does Dale White...we just outed each other as to our true identities!. How you been old friend? Gosh it's been forever.Where the world you at?


Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

Cool thanks. That browned cheese looks awesome.

TadBanyon
TadBanyon

@bvckvs And are you still sticking to the "he moved from Garland to Richardson" fiction, too, even though they were both open at the same time and weren't owned by the same guy?

Dale.W
Dale.W

@fluxvoovoo @Dale.W

I'm right here on the couch!  In extreme north Garland.  It has indeed been a loooong time.  I'm good, how about you?

username.neil
username.neil

@JohnSmallBerries @username.neil Olivella's is Neopolitan and just because  bunch of people went there means nothing. Millions of people eat at McDonalds and it blows too. 

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...