On the taco pizza refried beans are mixed with the sauce.
Lisa and Jeff Hutton left Dubuque, Iowa long ago, but there’s one thing they never forgot about the Mississippi River town: Happy Joe’s Pizza.
“We grew up on that pizza,” Lisa said of Happy Joe’s, a chain with locations in six states.
The Huttons have now brought a thin-crust pizza closely modeled on Happy Joe’s to east Wichita viathe Wichita Pizza Co., 1520 S. Webb.
The couple even bested Happy Joe’s in one regard: the taco pizza at Wichita Pizza Co. recently made Food Network Magazine’s list of the 50 best pizzas in 50 states, while no Happy Joe’s made the cut.
The Huttons came to Wichita for Jeff’s job at Boeing. In 1993, they opened the Dairy Queen at Harry and Webb. Over the next 17 years they watched several pizza joints come and go in the space next door before deciding to take the leap themselves.
“We just thought they’d complement each other,” Lisa said, since the DQ business tends to slow down in the winter, while the pizza trade does just the opposite.
But they didn’t want to serve just any pizza; they wanted to serve pizza like Happy Joe’s. Jeff had played around with pizza dough in his own kitchen for years, feeding the couple’s two sons and their friends. With hints from an unnamed benefactor from Kansas City, he finally discovered the secret.
The Huttons say their pizza is all about the crust and toppings. A large pepperoni includes 90 slices of pepperoni. “Some people compare us to Angelo’s,” Lisa said of the longtime Wichita favorite that’s now closed, “but only because of the amount of toppings we put on.”
The taco pizza is one example of the unusual combinations that work together to produce unexpectedly delicious results. On it, refried beans are mixed with the sauce, which is then topped with beef or chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomato and taco chips. Another pizza, the bacon cheeseburger, comes with the option of mustard instead of pizza sauce. “Yes, and it’s good,” Lisa said.
The 65-seat restaurant also serves appetizers, salads, calzones and hoagies. It boasts a wide selection of beer and full bar for adult patrons. On Sundays, the restaurant offers the NFL Ticket with eight high-def TVs and 2-for-1 drink specials.
The Huttons credit their sons and their friends for helping get the restaurant off to a fast start.
“They’ve had a lot to do with it,” Lisa said of the fresh-faced crew.
Lisa said the couple knew they were doing okay when “picky Easterners” praised their pizza.
“We’ve had a lot of New Yorkers come in,” she said. “They like it a lot.”
Wichita Pizza Co.
1520 S. Webb
11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily
Tuesdays feature $1 margaritas and specials on the taco pizza.