Many children imagine what they'll be when they grow up, but it's unlikely that grade school friends and Little Rock, Ark. natives Ted Neikirk, Greg Dietz and Jammers Orintas saw themselves co-owning a couple of New Orleans pizza joints. Dietz moved to New Orleans first, then called his two friends down to the Big Easy. In 2004, the three University of Arkansas graduates opened the original Theo's Neighborhood Pizza (4024 Canal St., 302-1133 ; 4218 Magazine St., 894-8554; www.theospizza.com) in Uptown. They opened the Canal Street location in 2009.
"We have what we think is a quintessential pizza joint: brick walls, concrete floors, a very casual and kid-friendly atmosphere," Orintas says. "And a good beer and wine selection with reasonable prices."
Theo's serves thin-crust pizza with fresh and house-made ingredients and unusual topping combinations in addition to the classics. Customers can choose from more than 40 toppings and three house-made sauces. Orinatas says the restaurant frequently incorporates personal favorites when creating new pizzas like the Vegan-ator (a 12-topping vegan pie) or its antithesis, the Meathead. The West Bank Special, a pizza featuring a hodgepodge of toppings including bacon, jalapenos and pineapple, was created by an employee at Theo's Magazine Street location.
"Growing up, we didn't have chain pizza restaurants," Orintas says. "This is the pizza we ate growing up, and we wanted to recreate that."
Pizzas are typically made with Theo's house-made thin crust, but the restaurant also has a gluten-free version. The restaurant offers many vegetarian and vegan options as well. "Our salads are a big selling point," Orintas says. "We do really large salads with fresh ingredients and homemade dressings."
Theo's was voted Best Pizza by Gambit readers in the 2010 Best of New Orleans poll. Despite burgeoning competition in the local pizza scene, Orintas says the restaurant is thriving. The owners hope to expand soon, most likely to Metairie.
"We'd like to open a couple more (restaurants) in New Orleans and beyond," he says.