After four years as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the Live Oak School District, Evan Borthwick followed in his father’s footsteps and started his own business—his dad had an architecture firm. After all, Borthwick had a business degree from Cal Poly. At the time, Borthwick lived in Ben Lomond and noticed an untapped market: There weren’t any pizza joints beyond the usual, lackluster franchises in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 2005, he opened Redwood Pizzeria in Felton.
The independently-owned pizza spot offers options like handmade gluten-free crust and cashew cheese for vegan diners. More importantly, there’s a focus on supporting the community; most ingredients are locally sourced from organic farmers.
The pizzeria is known for its pizza and customer favorites, including baked nachos with pizza toppings, organic salads and homemade lasagna. There are eight beers on tap, including Discretion Shimmer Pilsner and Discretion Dave’s IPA, and Santa Cruz Scrumpy Cider, also on tap.
Redwood is open Wednesday-Sunday, 4-9pm. Borthwick spoke about the restaurant’s pandemic-inspired changes and the challenge of opening a pizzeria without any industry experience.
What gave you the confidence to open Redwood Pizzeria?
EVAN BORTHWICK: I like challenges, and I bought an existing but struggling pizza place that I thought had potential. It had a great corner location with lots of windows, an open kitchen, and a private parking lot, so I felt like what I had to do was figure out how to improve the quality of the food and dining experience. So we remodeled, and through trial and error with my team, found a great pizza dough recipe and improved the quality of ingredients. It was a collaborative effort; I basically hired people who had worked with pizza before and deferred to their experience, and listened to them.
Did you make any pandemic-inspired changes that you’re going to keep in place?
We increased our outdoor seating significantly and added a covered outdoor bar area with several tables for large groups. We also added some family-friendly games like cornhole and ping-pong, as well as a full-length shuffleboard table in our former party room. Thanks to our dedicated and resilient staff, instead of just maintaining our business through the pandemic, we’ve actually improved it.
6205 Highway 9, Felton. 831-335-1500; redwoodpizza.com.