Steppin’s Out – Backroads Pizza, “It’s Hip to be Square”

A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that there was a new pizza place in Somerset that I should try and that they served square pizza and Hoagies. Always interested in something different, I gave them a call.

If you are not familiar with Hoagies, it is a term that originated in Philadelphia for a sandwich northern Californians call a submarine sandwich, or “sub.”

I called my friend Russ Salazar and invited him to join me, so we headed south on Mt. Aukum Road to its intersection with Fair Play Road, a place now called Gray’s Corner, but was originally called Melson’s Corner after a pioneer family that settled there. The restaurant is in the location previously occupied by Sierra Oaks Vineyards’ tasting room.

We were greeted by Perry Pickering, who with his wife Amanda and friend Jamie Richard, own and run the place. The Pickerings are from Martins Ferry, Ohio and Richard is from Mandeville, Louisiana.

“Most of my family was either born or raised in California,” said Perry. “My father was at McClellan. My brother and sister still live in Sacramento.

“My family has been in the restaurant business for some time, in fact, we still own the Steel Mill Bar and Grille in Martins Ferry. My wife, Amanda, has a similar background in restaurants and produce and is a great cook.

“When we first arrived, four years ago, I went into construction and then worked for BMS Cat, a company specializing in disaster restoration.

“I worked on the generator fire at Oroville Dam, where I met Jamie. He stayed there seven days a week, but I came home on weekends. One day I asked him if he wanted to spend the weekend with us at our place near Indian Diggings. We had a good time riding quads and the next weekend he asked if he could come home with me again. We struck up a friendship and he became our business partner.

“We opened Backroads Pizza to provide the area with a place where the hardworking family man or woman could bring the family to enjoy good food at a reasonable price. There is no place like that around here.

“We have young children and plan on keeping it kid friendly without beer or wine and, in addition to the large screen TV, we will be adding some classic video games and a pinball machine, if we can get one.”

Their pizza is rectangular, 24 by 16 inches, and you can buy it whole, by the half or even the slice. Their Hoagies come on a sourdough batard, which is an ideal sandwich roll with a rustic crust and a moist, airy interior.

Salazar and I split a couple of slices of the pizza, white sauce (chicken) and red sauce (pepperoni), and two hoagie halves, Philly Steak and grilled chicken. We also had an order of French fries, a true weathervane for any restaurant.

The very first thing both of us noticed was the pizza crust. It was not only delicious, but light and airy, yet still crispy on the bottom. Needless to say, it was  not the thick crust or thin crust we were used to and it melted in our mouths.

Perry told us it is a yeast rising crust that they had a hard time finding, especially in rectangles. “We get it in sheets and Amanda goes through quite a process of letting it rise and coating it to get it that way. In a sandwich, it is all about the bread; in a pizza it’s all about the crust”

When we tried the Philly Steak Hoagie, we both thought it was a bit dry. But, the second bite was perfect and full of delicious flavors. Apparently the mayo sauce didn’t get all the way to the edge.

It didn’t have a lot of peppers or onions, but it was absolutely full of delicious, thin sliced beef. I like a few more vegetables, but Salazar thought it was perfect, especially with the amount of meat, which both of us liked.

The grilled chicken Hoagie was great: cheesy and delicious, even better than the Philly Steak that we really liked. You can also get this sandwich with the chicken breaded. The sourdough batard they use really adds to the sandwiches

The fries were very nice: hot and crisp. Amanda, who was in the kitchen, sprinkles her own secret blend of salt, pepper and ? on them before they are served. I like pepper on fries.

Also on the menu are quite a list of appetizers like breaded mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini and cheese balls, along with poppers, Mozzarella sticks, onion rings and garlic bread.

The basic pizza comes with pepperoni and cheese, but you can get with BBQ Chicken or anything you like from a list of toppings that includes pepperoni, ham, salami, bacon, sausage, olives, green or red pepper, banana peppers, pineapple and mushrooms.

The Hoagies, which are available half or whole, include the Italian, Meatball, Pizza, B. L. T., Ribeye Steak and a Veggie, along with the two we tried.

They also have burgers, cheeseburgers and bacon burgers, along with chicken strips and fries or grill cheese and fries for the kids.

They are open from noon until 9, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; Noon until 8 on Sunday. Closed Tuesday. For more information call 530-620-7151. As a lot of the local wineries are finding out, they do deliver within 8 miles: $2 charge, $14 minimum order. If you live further than that, you can even meet them someplace to pick up your order.

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