In the mid-1990s, Derek Rupp lived in Pleasure Point and worked around town in restaurants. Then in 2000, a friend of his became a chef at Google (then a small company of only a few hundred people) and brought Rupp on as a cook. The company soon blew up, and Rupp rode the wave of success, eventually becoming an executive chef. But he became less and less hands-on with food, and he wanted to cook again and work locally. As fate would have it, in 2009, he saw an ad to buy Pleasure Pizza and jumped at the opportunity, excited to live and work in his home community and own a business he had frequented as a customer for many years.
He describes the spot as “casual, wetsuit-welcome and no shoes required”—the surfboards and vintage Pleasure Point photos adorning the walls add to the vibe. Rupp’s favorite pie is the Telecaster with tomato cream sauce, pepper jack cheese, chipotle pesto, pineapple and bacon. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara boasts artichoke hearts and spinach, and the Pleasure Combo is loaded with an assortment of meats and veggies. They are also known for Rupp’s killer homemade ranch dipping sauce—that doesn’t skimp on the dill. “It’s out of this world dill-icious,” he jokes.
Hours are 11am-9pm every day. Rupp took a slice out of his day to speak with GT about working for Google and what makes his pizza distinct.
What sets your pizza apart?
DEREK RUPP: The crust, for sure. It’s almost like focaccia bread, substantial and thick with a little more oil. This creates a nice textural contrast. You get the very crunchy and crispy bottom, paired against that nice soft bready inside. And since the crust is heartier, this allows us to add more toppings.
What was it like cooking for Google?
There were two really cool things about it. One was the fact that they pushed us to cook the best food possible for thousands of people, and also that we had so much creative freedom and got to cook different things every day. They questioned the status quo of a typical corporate cafeteria, constantly asking, “Does it have to be this way?” And out of that, we created these very unique cafés that were delivering food of incredible quality to employees and guests.
Pleasure Pizza, 4000 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-475-4002; pleasurepizzasc.com.