Ex-Tuli Bistro to become new Trick Pony

Rick Lobley’s quest for perfect pizza led him to a corner of midtown Sacramento. Shuttered two months, the vacant restaurant wasn’t serving – but its kitchen has a really good pizza oven.

Lobley and partners plan to open a neighborhood pizza place in the spot formerly occupied by Tuli Bistro at S and 21st streets. The longtime restaurateur wants to open “ASAP, hopefully by the end of May,” he said.

To be named Trick Pony, the 60-seat restaurant will serve “great pizza with great beer,” Lobley said, a perfect combination for a neighborhood restaurant.

Lobley has been a major influence on Sacramento’s restaurant and nightlife scene for many years. He’s currently co-owner of Capital Dime at 18th and L streets in midtown. Melissa Sanchez, a Capital Dime partner, also is a partner in Trick Pony.

“Why pizza? I’m tired of driving two hours to get a really good pizza,” he said. “It will be a different style of pizza. … We’re going to go back to the way they made pizza 1,000 years ago, but with fresh regional ingredients (instead of imported), then incorporate good stuff from living in this area. We have the best tomatoes in the world coming out of the Delta region. We’ll have a lot of locally sourced stuff. I found really good cheese.

“We want to raise the bar a little bit for local pizza,” he added, “and I found a good Italian boy to make it.”

Paul Caravelli, a Chicago-area chef who recently relocated to Sacramento, has agreed to helm the Trick Pony kitchen, Lobley said. “Call him ‘Paolo.’ ... I want local ingredients, but I had to get the chef from Italy.”

Coincidentally, Caravelli competed against Adam Pechal, the former chef/owner of Tuli Bistro, on the cooking competition show, “The Taste.” Caravelli’s friendship with Pechal brought him to Northern California.

Several familiar faces will be at the new restaurant, Lobley said. “A lot of the original people who worked at Tuli Bistro will be coming back. Just about everybody came by (to check on job opportunities). They love the place and want to come back.”

The neighborhood likes the plan, too, Lobley said. “So many neighbors have stopped by. People are so excited about it.”

The menu also will offer salads and a locally blended house wine.

Right now, the space is getting a facelift, “inside and outside,” he said. “We bought all new furniture. This will be its own place with its own culture and its own neighborhood vibe.

“This neighborhood really needs a good place around here,” Lobley added. “This will definitely be that place, where everybody comes and the chef knows the clients and they know him. It will be a friendly neighborhood restaurant – with great pizza.”