586 E. Main St.
A pizza joint in the heart of downtown Ventura is a no-brainer. Why it took so long to manifest is anyone’s guess, but now that it’s here, Jimmy’s Slice is a welcome addition to the city’s culinary landscape.
Those who, for the better part of a year, were teased by the “coming soon” sign in the window, need no directions to Jimmy’s. Open until 3 a.m. on weekends and midnight on weeknights, Jimmy’s has earned a favorable reputation with late-night partiers looking for a place to get the buzz off before they get back on the road.
To be fair, Jimmy’s isn’t the only place downtown to get pizza, nor does it have a monopoly on the coveted “slice.” But, by offering good food in addition to its generous slices in an appealing environment, Jimmy’s picks up where its competition leaves off.
Exposed beams and distressed brick lend style and airiness to the small narrow room. There are three seating areas to choose from: tables and chairs for parties of two that can be combined for larger groups, solo seating at the granite-top bar, and for people watchers, there are a handful of spots at the popular open window overlooking the bustle of Main Street.
Guests order at the counter and seat themselves. The food is brought to the table by a server. While this kind of arrangement makes tipping a bit ambiguous, it’s appropriate to leave something in the tip jar at the counter.
For this meal at Jimmy’s, I asked my teenage son to accompany me, because no one knows pizza (or is more critical) than a teenager. Being simple folk, we ordered our slices with cheese only. Pepperoni and vegetarian are available as well.
Pizza eaters tend to hail from two of four schools of thought: thin or deep dish, and cheesy or saucy. Jimmy’s claims the secret to their pizza is in the dough, a recipe perfected during the year they were preparing to open. If you’re from the thin school, you’ll like Jimmy’s hand-thrown rustic, chewy and crisp dough. Measuring about 6 inches at the edge, the slices are also ample. If you’re from the cheesy school you’ll also be pleased. We estimated Jimmy’s cheese to sauce ratio to be around 8-to-2. With Gruyere added to the blend, it is, without question, yummy, but a wee more sauce would give it enough moisture to make it near perfect. At about $4 per slice, some would say Jimmy’s is pricey, but the tab for two amounted to no more than a typical breakfast.
Mercifully, Jimmy’s has included five salads on the menu, among them a classic “chop” salad and the “wedge,” a chunk of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese, bacon bits, tomato and a blue cheese dressing. I ordered mixed greens with a delicious balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was fresh, plentiful and sans icky leaves.
Pizza and salad would normally assuage most appetites, but there were a few things we still wanted to taste from Jimmy’s. In addition to a welcome assortment of beverages that includes fountain drinks, coffee drinks and sparkling waters,
Jimmy’s offers a homemade cherry cream soda. This was far too intriguing to overlook, and the server was gracious enough to share the recipe. Made from seltzer water, Italian cherry syrup and manufacturing cream — heavy whipping cream that’s sweetened — the ingredients are vigorously shaken to produce a pinkish drink with a robust creamy head. This is a rare treat that sets Jimmy’s apart from other pizzerias. We were also curious about the sandwiches on the menu. I’d heard the meatball sandwich was very good, but we settled on the vegetarian: warm Gruyere cheese, fresh basil leaves, roasted red peppers, tomato and onion on an Italian roll. As sandwiches go, it was exquisite. The bread was pleasantly soft and fresh with just enough crunch to complement the buttery cheese and juicy veggies.
By meal’s end, we were so satiated that we forgot to try one of Jimmy’s homemade desserts. That just gives us one more reason to return to what is sure to become a fixture in downtown’s dining scene.