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By Norb Garrett
Funny how fate works. A broken-down pasta food truck in Austin, Texas forces a life-altering decision in 2016 for Lindsey and Tony Gioutsos to pack up everything and move to Southern California.
New (important) friendships are forged while Tony works at Artifex Brewing Company. A baby, Eleni (Leni for short), is born a month before the pandemic, which then inspires Tony and Lindsey to cook at home and begin experimenting, making Detroit-style, deep-dish pizza.
A neighbor turns out to be a local pizza chef, who, along with other neighbors, become guinea pigs to sample the new pizzas, topped with the original marinara sauce from the pasta business. A trip back to Michigan in the midst of the pandemic to train with the maestro of all Detroit deep-dish pizza makers provides the final ingredients to planning the business.
A local restaurant, JD’s, owned by Justin Shea, ceases food operations during the pandemic, freeing up their commercial kitchen.
Add it all up and—presto!—you have Gibroni’s Pizza, which this month celebrated its one-year anniversary in San Clemente.
“We were just sitting around one day during COVID and decided to go for it,” says Lindsey, who manages the business’ finances and marketing while her husband, Tony, runs the kitchen and front of house. “Our neighbor, Jake Anderson (now Gibroni’s master pizza maker), was in the business and inspired us. He and all of our neighbors got to eat a lot of pizza; they were our test subjects.”
The business officially started on July 1, 2020, with former San Clemente High School and current Carolina Panther quarterback Sam Darnold as their first client.
“We catered at his house,” says Tony. “The following week, we started serving to the public every Wednesday.”
Located in the front section of the popular nightspot, JD’s, on El Camino Real in downtown San Clemente, Gibroni’s has expanded to a staff of 10 and is open every day except Tuesday from 4-9 p.m.
This past March, they added a new “Late Nights” menu from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. on the deck (slices only) and have added five styles of chicken wings (inspired by Jake, originally from South Carolina).
Every month, Gibroni’s offers a featured pizza; this month, it’s Colonel Barry Sanders (note the ode to Lions legend Barry Sanders). The most popular pizza is “From the D.” A house salad, “The Opa,” an homage to Tony’s Greek upbringing, is also on the menu. In May, Gibroni’s began offering free delivery within a 3-mile radius (it’s $2, if farther).
Success has led to plans for growth. Tony and Lindsey have set their sights on a location in the North Beach surf ghetto and hope to open by Fall 2022. In the meantime, they’re enjoying raising Leni and managing their growing business.
“This is the best community we’ve ever lived in,” says Tony. “The community is so supportive. San Clemente is our kind of people; it feels like a Michigan town on the beach.”
Gibroni’s Detroit Style Pizza is located 215 South El Camino Real. More information can be found at gibronispizza.com or by calling 949.460.3572.