Cutting their own slice of heaven

A group of Newport-Mesa dads fueled by nostalgia have taken over Sgt. Pepperoni's Pizza Store, seeking to refresh the Newport Beach pizzeria with an updated menu and decor.

The family restaurant at 2300 Bristol St., a local institution since 1976, is now owned and operated by Stan Frazier, Jeff Roberts, Rob Dodman and Andy Hong. Trevor Kotchek is the general manager, head chef and otherwise jack of all trades.

In the 1970s and '80s, Sgt. Pepperoni's was a product of its time. The colors were bright orange, yellow and green — a truly Beatles-themed restaurant. In 2013, under new ownership, the modernized decor is now far more subtle, with black and white being the dominant color choices. Big-screen TVs line the walls.

The men finalized the sale of the restaurant Oct. 11 for an undisclosed amount from Behrooz Radparvar, who owned it for 14 years. In addition to remodeling and modernizing the kitchen, they revamped the menu.

Friday's grand reopening event had lines out the door, hundreds of attendees and raised $2,400 for Kaiser, Mariners and Woodland elementary schools. Finishing touches were done hours before the doors swung open.

"Paint drying led up to this thing," Dodman said.

Frazier, of Newport, is the former drummer for Sugar Ray and also has a stake in A Restaurant & Market on Mariner's Mile in Newport. He recently competed in and won "Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S.," a BBC America reality show.

Frazier and Roberts, a Bayview Heights resident and former vice president of retail at Costa Mesa-based Volcom, have been "buddies since kindergarten." They are ecstatic to see their childhood hangout become their very own.

"This was the spot to come in those days, with the arcade and the parents would have a couple coldies and watch the game," Frazier said.

Added Roberts, "Kids are king and queen here. We want the kids to come in and be completely entertained in the arcade. We cater to them with menu options, too."

Right now, Sgt. Pepperoni's — a name inspired by the Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" — serves New York-style pizza "with a California twist," salads, sandwiches, wine and beer. Pastas are planned, too.

The arcade includes an AC/DC pinball machine and old-school originals like "Ms. Pac-Man," "Galaga" and other '80s classics.

"This is a labor of love for us," Roberts said. "This is our opportunity to have a community center. We're constantly in contact [with] people in church groups, schools, athletic teams."

He added that he and his team want "sporadic friendships to engage. Obviously as a community dining establishment, people — without even making plans — are going to see each other and are going to bump into each other. This becomes a community hangout."

Dodman, of Eastside Costa Mesa, is the former chief financial officer for the Winchell's Donut House chain. Hong has a background in technology and music management. He lives in Dover Shores.

Kotchek, described by his colleagues as having "pizza and pizza sauce in his bloodstream," is a New York native from Merrick, Long Island. He and Frazier collaborated on the menu, which took some cues from Two Saucy Broads, a Fullerton pizza joint that Kotchek opened.

Kotchek said he liked the idea of working to reinvigorate a Newport-Mesa stomping ground.

"It wasn't just a business venture," he said. "There was passion on it. It was a, 'We came here as kids. We want to bring it back to life.'"

Roberts called having Sgt. Pepperoni's "an awesome opportunity. I take it to heart. I feel a responsibility to provide what I remember as being the greatest place in the world to come and hang out."

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