The goal of the Behind the Pizza Peel series is to reveal the warm--and sometimes wild--personalities that create America's favorite food on a daily basis.
Who are the people behind the pizzas, and what made them choose a pizza peel over a briefcase? What's their inspiration and what keeps them going? We find out in this ongoing series.
Behind the Pizza Peel: Dave Garcia
Pizzeria: Halftime Pizza, San Antonio, TX
Years in Pizza Biz: 15
Favorite Hobbies outside of Pizza: Golf and home-brewing beer
The Pizza Insider: Why did you choose to go into the pizza business?
Dave Garcia: My first job at age 15 was at a Peter Piper Pizza. I lied about my age and said I was 16 so I could work there because I loved pizza so much.
My dad wanted me to go into the medical field and so I became a pre-med student and did a lot of studying and reading, but I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. I couldn’t separate humans from machines. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about pizza and how it’s surrounded by celebration. I ended up asking the advice of my dad’s doctor, Dr. Carl Dukes, who told me I should go after my passion, even if it wasn’t medicine. My dad didn’t take my decision to leave medicine for pizza lightly, but he’s seen how I’ve earned my way over the years, from being a co-owner at Alamo Pizza to starting my own place at Alamo City Pizza to eventually opening Halftime Pizza, where I've successfully filled the void in San Antonio for a family-friendly sports-related pizzeria.
The Pizza Insider: Do you have a favorite memory associated with pizza?
Dave Garcia: One time in my early 20s my dad and I were out running errands and went to a local pizzeria—just the two of us. It was the first time I paid for our lunch. We had a pepperoni pizza and two Peroni beers. It was one of the best lunches I’ve ever had. Now I always make sure to keep Peroni at the pizzeria.
The Pizza Insider: When you eat at other pizzerias, what type of pizza do you order and why?
Dave Garcia: I usually order cheese or Margherita. If you can put out a really good cheese or Margherita, that’s great. If it’s somewhere I go all the time, I order the specialty pizza. I’m usually looking to see if they’re using fresh mozzarella, a screen, type of oven, etc.
The Pizza Insider: Who are your role models or mentors?
Dave Garcia: I communicate with Tony Gemignani through Facebook; I met him at Pizza Expo and respect how hard he works. Also people like Franco Pepe and Chris Bianco who are so great at what they do.
The Pizza Insider: In your opinion, what separates a good pizza maker from a great pizza maker?
Dave Garcia: Someone who respects the industry and the history of how they were making everything by hand and taking it back to its roots. If you can master that, I have nothing but respect for you.
The Pizza Insider: What’s the best advice you ever received?
Dave Garcia: When Dr. Dukes told me to do what I’m passionate about. Also to do the right thing. If you can tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing before every decision, you’ll be alright.
The Pizza Insider: Do you have any words of wisdom for new pizzeria operators?
Dave Garcia: Remember why you got into it. If you’re truly passionate about pizza, it’s still stressful, but there’s an end to the stress. Weather the storm and keep your head up.
The Pizza Insider: Can you name one thing that you feel will have the biggest impact on the pizza industry in the next five years?
Dave Garcia: Because of the popularity of wood-burning ovens I think we’ll see people getting more creative with them, cooking more appetizers and desserts in them, not just pizza.
The Pizza Insider: If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called?
Dave Garcia: The Hardest Working Man I Know