Who knew that old-fashioned could be so cutting-edge?

strawhat-signIn the summer of 1959, most California kids were listening to their favorite tunes and cruising the beaches with their surfboards. Little did they know their lives would soon be changed forever with the opening of the first Straw Hat Pizza ( location in San Leandro, California.

Straw Hat was years ahead of its time, using local ingredients for its flaky-crust pies, including California tomatoes for the sauce. Bench seating, movie screenings, free Charlie Horse rides for the kiddies and live banjo bands created a family atmosphere, and the shop’s motto was simple and straightforward: “People-Pleasing Pizza.”

Fueled by menu additions like the salad bar and Hot Hat sandwiches, locations stretched up and down the coast by the ’70s. At the chain’s peak, more than 450 outposts were thriving around the state.

Then, the big boys took notice. Pizza Hut bought out a portion of the chain in the mid-1980s, although many loyal store owners held their ground. Today, with the tagline “Genuine California Pizza,” 58 locations remain, and the chain is once again focusing on growth with the new concepts Straw Hat Express and Straw Hat Grill.


Back in growth mode once more, with plans to open new stores in Canada, the Mid-West, the East Coast and the South, Straw Hat Pizza’s original principles remain intact, and fresh ingredients remain a top priority. Straw Hat was an early leader in the green movement by using locally grown fresh produce from within 150  miles of its stores and controlling its own wheat and tomato fields. “The sauce is now organic,” says company president Jonathan C. Fornaci. “We actually make pizza the same way it was done in 1959, before all the preservatives and artificial stuff were even around.”

Who knew that old-fashioned could be so cutting-edge? —Tracy Morin


  1. bobReply
    April 16, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Strew Hat sucks!

  2. AndrewReply
    August 10, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Straw Hat used to be GREAT! They had a Sicilian square deep dish pizza that was to DIE for. This was in Tucson, off Oracle Rd, next to Lucky Wishbone. That was LONG ago.
    Ran into one in CA, off I-10, in Chino.
    It was HORRIBLE. No deep dish pizza. Completely changed the recipes around. Guess that should be expected. Really is a shame though. They wrecked a great pizza.

  3. RobbieReply
    April 17, 2021 at 12:32 am

    Straw Hat Pizza is some of the best tasting pizza in the business. Compared to other brands like Round Table or Pizza Hut which can be quite greasy and oily, straw hat has fresh, clean, delicious pizza. If you’re lucky and live to close one I promise you won’t be disappointed. The sauce is sweet and tangy and the crispy flakey crust is amazing. Hot Hats are a famous staple of the brand and are delicious. Most if not all locations carry a wide variety of appetizers and beers. Try Straw Hat!

  4. MikeReply
    January 20, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    My uncle owned 2 of these restaurants, one in Hacienda Hights California and Rowland Hights California. I worked in both on and off as when I was a kid. My dad managed one for a short period of time when I was little. It was a great place when he owned them in the 60’s and 70’s

Leave a Reply

Your message*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>