Downtown Eugene has much to offer, from the 5th Street Market with restaurants, up-scale boutiques, and an artisan gallery room to East Broadway’s senior living center, book store, and jewelry stores. There’s the downtown library and the transit station, among businesses that run large and small.
But among the extensive list of entertaining destination points is a small restaurant exclusive to Eugene. The destination rests beneath the Eugene Hotel sign on Pearl Street, and for the last three years, this locally owned and operated restaurant has been runner up for Best Pizza in Eugene Weekly’s Readers Polls. I had to see what all the hype was about.
Serving five varieties of New York-style thin-crust pizza by the slice in addition to an assortment of gourmet pizza, specialty salads, appetizers, beer, wine and dessert is Mezza Luna Pizzeria (MLP). Owned by John Fitzgerald and Sandy Little, MLP is further enhanced by the names for its pizza. With names like “The Marge,” “The Boot,” “Happy Howlee,” and “Schmo2,” the restaurant’s creativity sets itself apart from its competition. If you haven’t experienced this pizza yet, you’re missing out.
I find that like its service, MLP’s slogans deliver personality with friendliness: “You have a friend in cheeses” appropriately accompanies the phrase, “land here, leave happy.” From my experience, it’s hard to imagine leaving the airy and tastefully decorated restaurant in any other state but full.
As I enjoy my slice and observe the nature of the restaurant, I find that the place seems untouched by the economic woes of other local businesses. The softly lit atmosphere and quality of the restaurant, food, and customer service leave one customer after another smiling and satisfied. The pizza lovers range from young teens enjoying a late lunch after a late night on the town to two older men in an interview concerning a business career. There are individuals reading books and newspapers, and groups of men and women enjoying a social hour.
Though the influx of customers remains constant, the employees are just as friendly and inviting from my arrival to my departure. Jazz music creates a soft backdrop to the murmur of conversation and occasional shrills of laughter. Talk ranges from drugs to job lay-offs, Buddhism to Obama, language barriers to the Pacific Northwest. The restaurant seems to attract people from many walks of life – a fact that accurately portrays the wide range of individuals who frequent the downtown area.
MLP is an example of a local downtown business that is successful even in this time of economic uncertainty. The business’ success seems to contribute to the idea that what is affordable and valuable remains attractive to downtown consumers who are forced to be increasingly money-savvy. From my experience, trust MLP when they say “land here, leave happy.”