Wild About Fresh
How Paul Francis' Wild Tomato is changing the local Pizzeria scene.
Frankie D-Lux pizza and Wild Chicken and Pasta.
Photo by Jadrian Klinger
As you weasel your way through the stop-and-go traffic on Jonestown Road, you encounter every large-scale chain imaginable.
Target. Toys “R” Us. Olive Garden. McDonald’s. Ah, commercialism and industry at its finest.
But not really.
Then, however, you find Wild Tomato, a locally owned and operated pizzeria that emphasizes its fresh ingredients and wide range of gluten-free options.
Nestled behind Fast Signs and beside Applebee’s lies Paul Francis’ safe haven from all things big business.
“We make everything here fresh. There’s no freezer,” Francis, 39, of Harrisburg, explains. “The steak we get in for the cheesesteak is actual raw steak. We roast it off and slice it. It’s good quality. That’s what I wanted to focus on: premium quality ingredients.”
Francis’ eyes light up as he talks passionately about his business.
Colorful tattoos creep down his right arm, displaying his experience in past restaurant jobs.
There’s a chef, a pot and a terrified server screaming from within an oven, which – let’s all hope – is purely symbolic and not biographical.
With a culinary career spanning over 20 years and focusing in upscale dining establishments throughout central Pennsylvania, Francis is certainly knowledgeable about what he does.
That’s why you won’t find a lengthy menu at Wild Tomato; a slimmed-down menu allows Francis to focus on quality.
“A reheated piece of pizza is not premium quality.
We have a personal 10-inch, which takes six minutes to make,” says Francis, explaining why they don’t serve any single slices. “If you want to wait six minutes for a good-quality, hot-out-of-the-oven pizza, then the product will speak for itself.”
The Wild Tomato menu contains a lot of ordinary pizzeria items done in extraordinary ways.
The Frankie D-Lux pizza, which far surpasses your average supreme pizza, is made with thick Wild Tomato pizza sauce, fresh mushrooms, onions and crisp green peppers, topped off with juicy sausage, pepperoni and an extra layer of cheese.
Plus, Wild Tomato has four different crusts to choose from: deep-dish, whole wheat, Neapolitan and gluten-free.
You can go to any pizza shop to snag an Italian sub, but the Francis’ Godfather proves to be boss of them all.
Imagine homemade Italian dressing drizzled over a thick pile of salami, capicola, ham, sweet peppers, creamy mozzarella and provolone cheeses, crisp lettuce and fresh, tangy tomatoes.
All this gets layered on a crunchy fresh-baked roll.
Gourmet options such as the Wild Chicken and Pasta – fire-roasted chicken nestled in a deep dish of penne pasta and topped off with olive oil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach and mushrooms – give customers a little something extra.
Francis also noticed a market of pizzeria-lovers who usually get overlooked: those with gluten intolerance.
With the exception of the garlic knots, meatballs and lasagna, everything else on the Wild Tomato menu can be made gluten-free.
They’re even sponsored by the Gluten Intolerance Group and are a participating restaurant in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program.
“My sister has celiac [disease], and my mom and my other sister are gluten-intolerant,” he says. “We have a large following of people coming for our gluten-free options.”
Francis is humble about his shop, noting with a grin that he’s “not trying to change the world.”
However, Wild Tomato is certainly making a difference in the local community with its Donation Creation pizza.
Two dollars of each Donation Creation sold – as well as everything in the tip jar – goes to a local nonprofit that changes quarterly.
The designated pizza changes weekly to offer customers some variety. At the end of the quarter, Francis matches the donation with money out of his own pocket. Recent recipients include Morning Star Pregnancy Services and Ignite Student Ministries from the CrossPoint Church.
“I’m trying to give back a little bit. Community involvement is very important to me,” says Francis. “I always thought, ‘If I do open my own place, I want to try to be a little bit better. I think that one of the ways to do that is to give back locally.”
Wild Tomato is open for pick-up 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
They deliver to locations within a three-mile radius of the shop and offer fantastic catering options.
For more information, visit pizzaharrisburgpa.com, and make sure to “like” “The Wild Tomato Pizzeria” on Facebook to get updates on all of their fantastic deals and delicious eats.