Not all that long ago, Casey Groves was a stay-at-home dad researching the possibilities of buying a small business. He stumbled upon a listing that closely resembled a restaurant he and his wife, Shaina Groves, had frequented for years.
“It said, ‘large patio, downtown location, video games’ — stuff like that,” said Casey Groves. “And I’m like, ‘That sounds just like Taffy’s.’ So we got super excited. And just with that excitement, we said, ‘If it’s Taffy’s, we should just try for it.’” They did, and in January 2014, the Groves took over the iconic Taffy’s Pizza, becoming just the third owners in the pizzeria’s more than 40-year history.
Taffy’s Pizza started out as the personal residence of Bob “Taffy” Tafejian, who converted his house on De la Vina Street into the pizza parlour in 1973, after less successful stints with retail and ice cream. A decade later, Greg O’Brien bought the restaurant and operated it for more than 30 years, adding popular breadsticks and a delivery service — including, for a while, free pies to parents of newborns in Cottage Hospital — to Taffy’s list of attractions.
“When I came in, we just instantly had a friendship,” said Groves of his bid to purchase Taffy’s from O’Brien. “He just wanted to turn it over to somebody that was going to keep the tradition going — not change the name, not just flip everything around.”
And that’s what the Groves have done, continuing with the same food, service, and familial atmosphere that Taffy’s fans appreciate. The layout and feel is still that of an old house, complete with a private patio and deck, old photographs on the wall, and a fireplace room. The patio often hosts private events and family dinners, and the arcade-like video game room is a safe outlet for kids whose parents would like to relax and enjoy the casual atmosphere. “It’s really family-friendly,” said Groves, whose 5-year-old daughter, Lily, recently participated in the Fiesta Rodeo’s mutton-busting competition.
While it’s known primarily for its pizza, Taffy’s menu offers considerably more, including salads, sandwiches, pasta, desserts, wine, craft beer, and chicken wings, which were recently featured on TV for being the best in town. Here’s a look at those wings and other menu highlights.
Chicken Wings: These award-winning wings are becoming a big draw for the restaurant. Covered with a dry seasoning based on an undisclosed Santa Barbara Seasonings recipe, the tender appetizer features a mildly spicy flavor with a subtle hint of sweetness. Since the television appearance, Taffy’s has been selling two to three times as many wings as before.
Taffy’s Special: Taffy’s best-selling pie is also abundant in flavors, topped with so many meats and veggies of classic combo-style pizzas that it almost overflows.
Thai Special Pizza: Perhaps the restaurant’s most innovative pizza, the Thai Special swaps out traditional pizza sauce for a Thai peanut sauce that’s topped with chicken, sprouts, carrots, and cilantro. Though unexpected, the ingredients combine to make a unique and especially tasty pie.
Hot Tri-Tip Sandwich: Another signature dish, this dry-rub-spiced tri-tip is prepared by Groves himself, who smokes it over mesquite. The sandwich is another particularly popular menu item — enough so that it’s not unheard of for Taffy’s to run out of Groves’s meticulously prepared meat before the end of the day.
Taffy’s Pizza is located at 2026 De la Vina Street and is open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Call (805) 687-3083 and see taffyspizza.com.