Six months ago, husband and wife team Alan Maniscalco and Shan Wickham opened the doors to Rally Pizza, an ingredient-driven Neapolitan style pizzeria, located at 8070 E Mill Plain Blvd. in The Mill retail center.
After years of working in Portland, the pair was drawn to Vancouver, Maniscalco said, because of its suburban setting and growing food scene.
Recently, we caught up with the owners and asked them how the restaurant has fared in its first half-year, and how, if at all, Southwest Washington has surprised them.
Q: How would you describe Rally Pizza’s first six months of operation?
Rally: We’ve had a successful first seven months. We are building a new business from the ground up. We have a lot of fans and are developing a good cast of regulars. Most of our staff has been with us since we opened, which makes us feel that we are running a quality business.
Q: What have you learned about Vancouver since you opened?
Rally: We have a lot of people who live in Vancouver, Camas and Washougal who thank us for opening Rally. The area’s residents are proud of their community. They believe in local. We have a lot of Southwest Washington products on our menus: beers, wines and produce. The farmers market has been great. We have good relationships with local brewers, vintners and distributors. And the food community has been very welcoming. We’ve made a lot of new friends in the industry, as well as other small business owners in the community.
Q: How is the location working out?
Rally: The Mill (formerly Garrison Square) has been great. We are next to the hospital and we serve a lot of staff and visitors. Now that baseball/softball season has started, we are seeing a lot of traffic from the fields on Garrison. We have sponsored a softball team, too, a team of girls ages 9-11, “The Diamond Divas!”
Q: Is there anything you would do differently if you could re-do your first six months?
Rally: When we designed our menu, we tried to keep it as simple as possible. We know that people have strong opinions about what they want on their pizzas. We thought we made it clear that people could alter our pies anyway they wanted, but it wasn’t! So we have redesigned our menus to make it clearer that customers we can make their pizza however they want it. We also added a few new items, plus promoted some of our favorite specials to the permanent menu, like The Bolognese pizza (rich beef and pork meat sauce plus bechamel on top of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella) and arancini (fried risotto balls stuffed with meat sauce).
Q: What’s the story behind the new spring menu?
Rally: We are glad to see that our local farmers finally have some spring produce popping up. It was an especially difficult winter for them. There are a lot of green things on our menu right now, including peas, asparagus and lots of fresh greens.
Q: What are your expectations for the remainder of Rally’s first year?
Rally: We are excited for summer. We have a few outdoor tables ready for deployment. We love cooking during summer, when all of our favorite ingredients are available. Imagine lots of fresh veggies! Mostly, we are excited for ice cream season. We have seen our dessert business grow every single month since January, which is a really good sign. We will have plenty of seasonal dessert specials all summer long.