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Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on June 21st, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 23, Issue 17

Longtime Giavanni's employee Eric McDaniel becomes the Orcutt pizzeria's new owner

By CALEB WISEBLOOD

Eric McDaniel was 18 when he started his first job, working in the kitchen of Giavanni’s Pizza in Orcutt. Could he have predicted owning the joint about two decades later?


POWER COUPLE
Eric McDaniel (left)—who has worked on and off for Giavanni’s since 1999—and his wife, Brittany Jones-McDaniel (right), became the new owners of the local pizzeria at the beginning of June.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC MCDANIEL

“It kind of is a little bit of a dream come true,” said McDaniel, who bought the pizzeria with his wife, Brittany Jones-McDaniel, in early June.

McDaniel has worked for the restaurant on and off over the past 23 years. He’d always been interested in owning his own pizza place someday, so he jumped at the chance to buy Giavanni’s when he found out its former owners were selling.

“It’s just fun. It’s always been my favorite job. People love pizza,” McDaniel said. “I’ve kind of always been here, in one form or another.”

Oven is a place on Earth
Giavanni’s Pizza is located at 1108 E. Clark Ave., Orcutt. Call (805) 934-8555 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for more info. The pizzeria is open Sunday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and every Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

McDaniel was born in North Dakota and was 4 months old when his family moved to the Central Coast. 

“This is home for me. I grew up over on Rice Ranch Road, basically down the street from Giavanni’s,” said McDaniel, who graduated from Righetti High School in 1999, the same year he started working for the pizzeria.

McDaniel credits his brother, Chad, with getting him the job. 

“My brother was one of the first employees when the place opened in ’94,” McDaniel said. “He started off as a dishwasher.”

McDaniel said he initially felt both excited and anxious to work for his brother, who was a manager by the time the 18-year-old started.


ORCUTT STAPLE
Giavanni’s Pizza opened in Orcutt in 1994, the same year new owner Eric McDaniel’s brother, Chad, started working at the pizzeria. Five years later, McDaniel started working for the restaurant too.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC MCDANIEL

“I didn’t want to let him down,” McDaniel said. “I was nervous, but also a little at ease because I kind of had him to fall back on, you know? And it wasn’t like I didn’t know anybody else. I already knew a handful of people because I would come in a lot with my brother.”

McDaniel started in the kitchen and gradually took on several other duties at the restaurant over time.

“I slowly started picking up every little part of the job,” said McDaniel, who would take orders at the front counter and even drive for deliveries when the pizzeria got super busy. “Even though I was a cook, I would kind of do whatever was needed, really.”


SUPER SALAD
Alongside various pizza offerings, Giavanni’s expansive menu features salads, sandwiches, pasta, and several kinds of appetizers, including Buffalo wings and jalapeño poppers.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC MCDANIEL

McDaniel worked for Giavanni’s for about five years before leaving to take on a full-time pre-wiring job with Dish Network. But he eventually returned to pick up part-time hours for extra money while still working full time for Dish, and later for DirecTV.

“It basically turned into a second full-time job because I just kept getting more and more hours,” said McDaniel, who would pick up late shifts at the pizzeria five to six nights a week.

As the restaurant’s new owner, McDaniel is excited to implement some ideas he’s had brewing in his head for awhile. 

“I’ve seen it [Giavanni’s] through highs and lows, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work,” McDaniel said. “I kind of feel like I have a pretty good idea of what the place needs and what people are looking for. And I’m hoping it all works out. So far, so good.”


UNCUT GEM
New owner Eric McDaniel has a handful of new ideas for Giavanni’s, but one thing that will remain a constant at the restaurant, for the most part, is the food. “The food’s not changing. People love the food. I love the food. If anything, I’ve got some ideas I’ll just add on,” he said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC MCDANIEL

McDaniel is in the process of installing 12 TVs all around the dining area, to help get more of a sports theme going on at Giavanni’s.

“I want to have TVs everywhere,” McDaniel said. “No matter where you’re sitting, you can always see a TV.”

One thing that will remain a constant at the pizzeria is the food itself, McDaniel explained.

“The food’s not changing. People love the food. I love the food. If anything, I’ve got some ideas I’ll just add on,” McDaniel said. “We used to have calzones, I want to bring calzones back. We used to have dessert pizzas, I want to bring dessert pizzas back. 

“There are just a number of things I want to get back in which I know were good sellers.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood had his college graduation party at Giavanni’s. Send pepperoni slices and arcade tokens to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










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