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A Slice of Baja: Ollie’s Pizza and Brown Dog Gelato
by Erin Dunigan

A Slice of Baja: Ollie’s Pizza and Brown Dog Gelato

By Erin Dunigan

Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja
Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja

Pizza?? In Baja?? For real? Yes!

Not just any old pizza - possibly some of the best pizza you’ve ever had. This isn’t a daydream; it’s a delightful reality at Ollie’s Pizza, where American dreams mix with Mexican magic. Here a different Baja experience unfolds, one with the irresistible aroma of wood-fired pizzas and the texture of creamy gelato.

Step inside the rustico wooden doors into Ollie’s Pizza and you’ll be greeted by the laughter of families, the warm chatter (in Spanish and in English) of friends, and the irresistible aroma of fresh-baked goodness. This welcoming atmosphere is no accident - it is the result of years of dedication and collaboration between two passionate local heroes, Alonso Cruz and Raul Corrales, and a visionary American named Richard Cargill.

Alonso, with his deep roots in the local community and extensive restaurant experience, knows exactly how to make guests feel at home, whether it’s in English or in Spanish. Remember your name? Of course! He’s been cultivating customer loyalty for close to a decade and a half now, ensuring that every visit feels like you are ‘en casa.’ Raul, with his resourcefulness and hands-on approach, keeps the operations running smoothly.

Together, Alonso and Raul are the beating heart of Ollie's Pizza - but they wouldn’t be here without the spark that ignited the journey: Richard, an American retiree who came from Arizona. “I had retired to Baja and realized - I was getting a bit bored, and I really missed good pizza,” shared Richard with a smile that is well known to those who have felt the warmth of his presence. “The extent of my restaurant experience was that I had eaten at them!” he continued. But that did not dissuade him. There was a particular high-end pizza place in Phoenix that Richard had frequented when he lived there. “I wanted to see if I could create something based on that,” he shared.

Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja
Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja

So, with a craving for good pizza, and an idea of what he wanted to create, Richard knew he would need help to turn that vision into a reality. Raul, with his handyman skills and ‘todo es posible’ attitude came alongside Richard from the beginning. Raul helped him navigate the structural challenges of creating the space- issues such as how long does the peel (the wooden paddle used to move the pizzas in and out of the brick oven) have to be, and therefore how big does the kitchen need to be? Not long after Alonso joined the team, bringing his expertise of the local restaurant scene into the mix. But the journey wasn’t paved in mozzarella - sourcing the right kind of quality ingredients was a challenge. There were also whispers of doubt questioning whether a high-end pizza concept could survive in an area used to street taco prices and ambiance.

Not only did Ollie's Pizza survive - it began to thrive, attracting customers from around the region, as well as visitors in town for a vacation. Together, the three partners have built a team known for its warm welcome and making every guest feel like family. Most of the restaurant’s staff have been there for more than a decade, another testament to the magic that is Ollie's.

But the story doesn’t end there. Having found success with Ollie's, Richard began to feel those familiar stirrings again - a bit of boredom, mixed with a craving. The craving was good gelato.

Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja
Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja

“I kept checking into the idea of gelato and trying to learn about it, read about it, but finally I decided to fly over to Italy and go to gelato school to find out about it.” Though the gelato was good, the equipment required was expensive and it seemed a bit of a stretch. But in his return back to Baja Richard kept thinking about the gelato. “So, basically the gelato came about because I thought the area needed it and I thought it would go with a pizza place!”

As with the beginning of Ollie's coming partly from a desire to find good pizza locally, Brown Dog Gelato also was born of a desire - a desire for good gelato. This sweet addition perfectly complemented the savory offerings of Ollie's, creating a go-to little corner along the free road just south of Rosarito.

“I had always thought as we went along, I don’t know how long I have, and I don’t know how long I want to do this for - but here we are, 13 years in,” shared Richard. As time went on, he realized that he wanted to start backing out of the business a bit. Recognizing the immense value of Alonso and Raul’s contributions, he took a visionary step three years ago, transforming them from valued employees to equal shareholders in the business. This wasn’t just a transfer of ownership - it was a testament to Richard’s faith in their talent and commitment, ensuring the legacy of Ollie's would continue to flourish long after him.

Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja
Ollie's Pizza Rosarito Baja

Today, Ollie's Pizza and Brown Dog Gelato are more than just businesses - they are testaments to the power of collaboration and hospitality. They attract a diverse clientele, welcoming Americans seeking a taste of home with a Baja twist, and locals looking for a delightful escape. Together, Alonso and Raul continue to weave their magic, ensuring that every guest feels welcomed, appreciated, and treated to culinary experiences that linger long after the last bite.

“We have customers who come all the way from Mexicali,” shared Alonso. “And another family that comes from Temecula - just to eat pizza here and then they go back home!”

So, next time you find yourself in Baja, take a break from the tacos and head to Ollie's Pizza and Brown Dog Gelato. Let the friendly and dedicated staff guide you on a flavorful journey, one where passion, dedication, and a touch of magic create a truly unforgettable experience.

Ollie's Pizza & Brown Dog Gelato
Carretera Libre Rosarito-Ensenada KM 40.5
Rosarito, Baja California
Website



About Erin

Erin Dunigan is a writer, photographer, and horsewoman who has always felt at home in Baja California. She spent her childhood traveling back and forth between her native Southern California and her grandmother's home in La Mision. For the past 14 years she has made Baja her home. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @edunny.
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