The purple and teal carpet and the parrots hanging from the ceiling from decades past at Leonardo’s Pizzeria are gone, but the fresh pizza made from signature homemade dough remains the same. One of Vancouver’s longtime pizza establishments, initially founded in 1993, is celebrating 25 years in Vancouver this year. Matt Ableidginer, owner of Leonardo’s Pizzeria, purchased the business in 2010 after the business fell on hard times. He explains that a failed business expansion model, combined with the slow economy in 2007-2009 hit the business hard, but when he stepped in, he was excited to come up with ways to enliven business.
“Since then, we’ve grown sales by almost three times what they were back in 2010 and today, we have about 19 employees. We’ve also reinvested in the business to make it a better overall experience…but we’ve stayed true to our roots,” said Ableidginer. “I knew that we needed to reinvent ourselves to show our customers we care about their experience. And thankfully, it worked. We’re still a casual pizza joint where you can bring your family, kids, sports team or a friend and have a great meal, catch the game on TV, and simply enjoy yourself.”
Ableidinger remodeled the current location on a tight budget, where he and his family did a lot of the work themselves. “I found tabletops that I liked at Ikea, but they were raw wood, so I finished them all in my garage and brought them over in small batches to switch them out. My sister-in-law found some great wooden booths from another restaurant going out of business. We picked them up and I refinished and installed them. I found great deals on TVs, installed speakers in the ceiling, and worked on lots of other projects to save as much money as we could,” he said. Even though the inside has been revamped, the key ingredients and commitment to freshness in the pizza hasn’t changed in 25 years, with the homemade dough and signature sauces made fresh daily. Veggies are fresh-cut, topping options are plentiful, there are up to 17 beers regularly on tap, and there is a special events room that can seat up to 60 people.
“We’re one of the last pizza places that still makes our dough and sauces from scratch and we’re proud of that. Many pizza restaurants buy pre-made, even pre-rolled dough which saves time, but adds preservatives and sacrifices freshness. Our dough has six ingredients and we cold-proof it so it’s fresh, elastic and flavorful. We roll and hand-toss each pizza at the time it is ordered to make the crust and the toppings taste great. We can make a darn good pizza, we don’t skimp on the toppings, and there’s something for just about everyone,” said Ableidinger.
Leonardo’s Pizzeria plans to continue serving hungry customers for a long time. They are considering expanding to add another location and are in the process of upgrading their point-of-sale system to incorporate online ordering. Ableidinger said, “I feel so lucky that our customers love what we offer. It’s truly humbling to have people come by and trust that we’ll take care of them. We’re not cool. We’re not trendy. We’re what you expect from a good, local pizzeria.”
Leonardo’s Pizzeria is located at 16505 S.E. First St. in Vancouver. Visit leonardospizzeria.com