POULSBO — To use the term, “trial by fire” would be an understatement for Marlin Warmedahl’s first venture into the restaurant business.
The former certified public accountant and new owner of Pizza Prima said he bought the year-old Poulsbo business in September, having never owned a restaurant and knowing little about actually making pizza.
In addition, he showed up to his first day of work to find that no employees had been scheduled for that day and he hadn’t even the slightest concept of how to make any of the pizzeria’s menu items. Luckily, he found a good-natured employee who was willing to come in on his day off for a couple of hours.
“The first day was kind of funny, believe me. We closed early that day,” Warmedahl admitted with a chuckle.
Now six months the wiser, Warmedahl’s lack of prior experience with the pies is all but a memory. He owes his success partly to a top-notch staff who have let him peek over their shoulders to learn the trade and also to a solid foundation of good eats set out by the business’ original owners.
“Just the way you see it was the way it was started and operated,” Warmedahl said. “The menu is pretty much the same and it seems to have a pretty loyal following.”
Warmedahl has also kept the pizzeria’s decor and hours the same.
Pizza Prima specializes in East Coast-style thin-crust pizzas, which he said seem to be very popular with many people who have lived on the East Coast before and crave a taste of home. But Northwest palates also seem to gravitate toward the slices, as Warmedahl likens his hand-made dough to that found at Seattle’s popular Pagliacci Pizza. The dough is made from scratch on site, and takes an impressive 12 hours from start to finish to be ready for the ovens.
“I didn’t know a lot about pizza when I bought this place, only that I knew pizza that I didn’t like. I really thought the pizza here was good,” Warmedahl explained of the eatery’s signature creations.
The restaurant also features submarine sandwiches and wraps, including Philadelphia cheese steak and gyro flavors. The business intends to soon add homemade soups and pasta salads to the menu, another inspiration Warmedahl said he drew from Pagliacci, a restaurant he frequented while working in Seattle years ago.
“The hope is to build up the lunch crowd because not everyone wants pizza or a sub because they can be very heavy,” Warmedahl said of adding the new menu items.
Unlike many of the other restaurants in downtown Little Norway, Warmedahl said Pizza Prima’s location on Jensen means he draws a lot more locals than tourists. To further cater to locals, he added bicycle delivery to the already-standing delivery services. The three-wheeled Pizza Prima bike can often be seen at lunch time in the downtown district as Warmedahl and his staff deliver hot lunches to Poulsbo’s busy downtown business owners.
“I thought the bicycle would be a good idea for deliveries in the downtown area, the only thing is it’s very difficult to pedal and you wouldn’t imagine it would be,” Warmedahl commented on the bicycle with a laugh. “Going down the hill to downtown is fine, but coming back you can feel it in your legs.”
Despite having to learn the pizza business from the ground up, a slow first winter and an every-day commute to Poulsbo from his home in Bremerton, Warmedahl said he’s grown to feel like Pizza Prima and Poulsbo are his home.
“I’m tired most of the time, but I enjoy the business and I enjoy the people and I don’t ever regret coming in in the morning,” Warmedahl added.