Since Marian and Lumy Licxandru and Catalin and Carola Stanciu purchased Pizzeria La Gitana in 2011, the business has only thrived, branching off from the original Yelm location to an additional one in Olympia.
“People come in and people say, ‘This is Italy — this reminds me of Italy,’” Marian Licxandru said. “We take pride in that. What we do is we have Italian ingredients, organic ingredients. If you add good things together and then you add the warmth of the wood fire oven, chances of success are pretty high.”
One popular aspect of the ingredients is that they use organic, fresh produce and imported Italian ingredients that he would feed his kids, he said. As for the food itself, Marian Licxandru said that a certain new addition to the menu has people going wild.
“We recently added the cauliflower crust to the menu,” he said. “We sold over 150 crusts in less than a week between both locations, and it’s so good. It’s got less than 19 grams of carbs, which is unreal for a pizza, and the taste remains the same.”
Marian Licxandru said that the business has a European vibe already, but to add live jazz music during the summer, steps the place up to a cafe in the middle of France or Italy.
In fact, live jazz music in Yelm at Pizzeria La Gitana starts at 6 p.m. this weekend with no cover charge.
“Why take a trip all the way to France, have jet lag on Monday, when you can just come to La Gitana, sit outside under the street lights, under the patio heaters and listen to jazz and enjoy some really good European food, then go home and be happy,” Marian Licxandru said. “That’s my philosophy about life.”
The success of Yelm’s location of the business was so promising that Marian Licxandru and company opened another location in Olympia. It was just remodeled in November. Now, there is a “huge” pergola in the middle of the restaurant.
“When you go in it’s like a summer garden inside with a huge brick wall the length of the restaurant overseeing the bar and the wood fire oven,” Marian Licxandru said.
When the Licxandrus and Stancius purchased the Yelm restaurant, they tried to keep the same recipes and ended up adding to a good base that was already there, Marian Licxandru said.
He said that the primary changes, though, were in the restaurants’ ambiance.
“We did extra. We added a little bit of the charm of dining in a French pizzeria, in an Italian pizzeria, in a (Grecian) pizzeria,” Marian Licxandru said. “It’s not just having the good pizza — Why not have a French roast at the table? Why not light a real candle at the table?”
In addition, while two families own the business, Marian Licxandru said the company provides for many more people, many employees, and is taking that fact seriously. Currently, the Licxandrus and the Stancius are looking into strengthening the company’s benefits for full-time employees.
Specifically, Marian Licxandru said he is interested in looking into retirement programs.
“It’s more than just a family business,” he said. “We have employees with us for three, four, five years. Sophia, she won best server in Yelm a couple of years ago, she has been with us for eight years. Good employees are very hard to find.”
Pizzeria La Gitana is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. The company is often doing fundraisers for other organizations. It founded the town’s annual Jazz in the Park event, so visit pizzerialagitana.com or call 360-400-2929 for more information.
Its lunch special is a 9-inch pizza and a drink for $11.50. Regularly, cheese pizzas start at $12 and glasses of wine start at $3.50.
“This is unbeatable,” Marian Licxandru said. “I think Pizza Hut can beat that, but that’s not as good.”
The restaurant also does pasta dishes, and is looking into making fresh, organic noodles.
Pizzeria La Gitana has a rewards program for loyal customers.
“Every 10 visits our guests get any pizza they want on the house,” Marian Licxandru said. “It doesn’t matter if it is a $30 pizza — it’s on the house.”
While Pizzeria La Gitana was not founded by the Licxandru and Stanciu families, they truly believe that Yelm has taken them under its wing.
“I sincerely believe that this town adopted us,” Marian Licxandru said. “Olympia is cool, but Yelm is home. I come in here and it is my personal living room, and I have Italy.”