By Nick Wojton, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – One of the easiest answers when deciding what to order for dinner is pizza.
But, in Oswego, the answer to “where?” isn’t always the easiest to find with such a variety of selections.
A large number of pizza joints in Oswego have to fight for business from an overall small market of people. Each restaurant has its own strategy and own products in an attempt to be Oswego’s favorite slice.
One of the newest members of the Oswego pizza family is The Pies Guys located at 6 Baylis Street, just minutes away from the front entrance of the SUNY Oswego campus. Though new to the area, The Pies Guys aren’t new to serving up pizza in Central New York.
Two other Pies Guys pizzerias are located in Fulton and Camilius, with the Oswego shop opening this past September.
The biggest difference between The Pies Guys and the rest of Oswego’s pizzerias is its location.
The bulk of Oswego’s pizzerias are downtown, leaving The Pies Guys furthest from other businesses.
Kevin Prell owns The Pies Guys with his wife, Heidi. He said that the location selection was based on the distance from the school.
“We wanted to be by the college because we cater to the students,” Prell explained.
To do so, large dollar slices are offered to students, something which has been a huge hit for the business.
Prell said they hope to even further extend their connection with the school via its meal plan. The pizzeria is hoping to expand its business to the city residents this summer as well.
“We look to accommodate,” Prell said. “One guy asked for a bread bowl for his wife because she was sick and unable to leave the house, so we made a bread bowl. Now we’re adding them to our menu.”
In addition to their brick oven made pizza and bread bowls, The Pies Guys offers a fish fry, sandwiches, gyros, and very large sized calzone.
The city of Oswego isn’t only limited to local pizza shops though, one of the most popular pizza chains nationally, Pizza Hut, is located at 303 W. Seneca St.
Despite being a large food chain brand, store manager Jason Degraw says that Pizza Hut is still “an Oswego pizzeria.”
One of the main differences with Pizza Hut compared to other Oswego pizzerias is consistency, he said.
“On top of all our ingredients being fresh, we have certain measurements for each,” Degraw said. “At other places you’ll get a different pizza depending on who’s the cook that day.”
Another advantage of Pizza Hut, according to Degraw, is the in-house dining experience. Pizza Hut offers the largest dining room between all of the pizza shops in Oswego.
“Most pizza places don’t have a dining room,” Degraw said. “We like to cater to families.”
Pizza Hut does not offer individual slices for sale like other places, but make up for it with one of the best in-store dining experiences.
The only salad bar in any Oswego pizza shop and being one of the few that offer desert and a pasta alternative is another additional touch Pizza Hut adds to the menu.
Jon Nesmith, a Pizza Hut patron, agreed that the consistency Pizza Hut has is what brings him in.
“I always know what I’m going to get,” Nesmith said.
Not quite the franchise the size of Pizza Hut, but with more than 40 franchises in the Rochester and Syracuse area, Mark’s Pizzeria brought its pizza-making experience to the Oswego area just this past August.
Owner Paul Sanger says there’s a clear difference in Mark’s pizza above the others.
“We offer a thicker crust, where the rest of the places in Oswego offer a thin crust,” Sanger said.
Being located just next to Pizza Hut at 255 W. Seneca St. and located just off campus, the two chains try to make business off the students with their franchise reputation.
“We get a lot of students from Western New York and other areas that know our name,” Sanger said.
Despite its good reputation as a pizza shop, Mark’s isn’t afraid to make the necessary changes to improve its products.
“You always want to stay ahead (of the others), you don’t want to fall behind,” Sanger said.
Recently, Mark’s improved its chicken finger recipe and added a few new pizzas including a grilled cheese flavored pizza, margherita pizza, and a gluten-free pizza.
Being a Western New York based company, Mark’s also offers wings made with a recipe from the “wing capital” in Western New York.
If you’re looking for a go-to pizzeria in Oswego, you can’t go wrong with selecting Pizza Villa at 101 1/2 W. Bridge St.
The shop is a tradition in Oswego, being open for more than 35 years in the same location.
“It goes down generation to generation,” manager Mark Gentile said.
Pizza Villa may be one of the oldest pizza places in Oswego, but its motto is “keeping it basic,” according to Gentile.
They don’t add any secret ingredients to their pizza and wings, just the same product which has become an Oswego tradition over the decades.
While other pizza businesses have a neighbor close by in the same area, Bridge Street Pizza has not only Cam’s Pizzeria, but also Franco’s.
Bridge Street Pizza has a traditional pizzeria feeling.
They offer slices for a quick meal and also a variety of “every day specials” and “combo meals” including different sized pizzas, subs, wings and even quesadillas.
Bridge Street Pizza’s location has been a pizzeria since the previous tenants ran Enzo’s Pizzeria prior to Bridge Street Pizza’s opening at 45 W. Bridge St.
Guy Keech, brother of owner Beth Keech, said that despite the close competition, it hasn’t been a struggle surviving.
In the last year, Bridge Street Pizza has expanded its store front to accommodate more seating for a larger dining section to improve its in-store dining experience.
While improving their store front, Keech said the wing sauce is one thing that doesn’t need a change.
“You can definitely tell the difference,” Keech said.
Just a short walk away from Bridge Street Pizza is another Oswego tradition in Cam’s Pizzeria.
For roughly 30 years, Cam’s has been located on the corner of West Bridge and Second streets.
“We’re a cornerstone,” manager Anthony Master said. “Everyone knows where Cam’s is.”
The New York style pizzeria offers a thin crust style of pizza that many other Oswego pizzerias offer. But, its quick access to a variety of different types of slices is what makes Cam’s different.
Most leave it to a cheese or pepperoni slice for customers but Cam’s has those traditional slices ready for customers but also others such as buffalo chicken or sausage.
Melanie MacLean, a customer enjoying some pizza on a lunch break, said that the quickness and taste of Cam’s pizza made the choice for her.
“I only had a half hour so I said we’re going to Cam’s,” MacLean said.
Finally, Oswego’s Little Caesar’s brings a Hot-N-Ready pizza option to Price Chopper plaza on the east side of Oswego. Little Caesar’s makes fresh pepperoni and cheese pizza’s all day long in order to have them ready to order for customers, a big advantage on other competition.
Customers can stop in and receive a large pie ready on the spot.
“The most you’ll ever wait with us is ten minutes,” assistant manager Don LePage said.
Though a chain pizza, LePage said that Little Caesar’s still takes its customers and pizzas seriously.
“I wouldn’t serve anything that I wouldn’t eat myself,” LePage said.
The pizza shop recently moved from its previous location on East Third Street.
The main reason for the move, according to LePage, was for the higher customer traffic in the Price Chopper plaza.
After Price Chopper shoppers finish a long trip to the grocery store, they can grab a pizza instead of going home to cook, he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is just a sample of the pizza fare available in the Port City. Not all businesses responded to our requests for interviews. If we didn’t include your favorite pizza – please use the comments section to share your pizza of choice.)