When your living in the parched west central Arizona desert, you need a fair measure of grit and ingenuity. The seemingly quirky nature of Quartzsite's inhabitants isn't a new development; for 100 years or more, the area has been a magnet for miners and misfits, rovers and roustabouts. A handful of resilent entrepreneurs reside in Quartzsite, serving the population's needs and braving the 120°F temperatures common to the region in summer. Most manage tourist shops, which during the cooler months do a boom trade.
Late in the year, Quartzsite is jolted out of its repose. The first rumblings begin in November, When RVs and trailers begin filtering in, many from northwestern States. By December the one main street is swollen with traffic. In January, all hell breaks loose. That's when rockhounds, tourists flea market tailgaters and RV snowbirds from across the United States and Canada arrive to attend the mega-markets and the Rock & Gem shows.
For the Restaurants in town it means filling to explosive levels. A line may form at the door that quickly fills into the parking lots. Few people seem to mind the wait, since the weather is almost always pleasant and every restaurant in town is in the same shape.
Silly Al's Pizza has been a "Family-owned and operated" restaurant in the same Quartzsite location since 1987 by the Robertson family. 'Silly Al's' was the brainchild of Al Robertson, and Arkansas/Los Angeles transplant who moved with his family to nearby Ehrenberg, Arizona, in 1980. He and his wife Joanie, had never been in the Pizza business. Their lifeline in Los Angeles was a chain of beauty shops and two beauty schools. In Arkansas from 1972 to 1980, they raised Charolais cattle and two young boys.
When the cattle business got boring and the boys had reached their teens, Al sold the business and moved to Ehrenberg, where he planned to help his brother get a new mobile home park up and running. That prospect fell through after what Joanie calls "a difference of opinion," and Al was left with a property on the wdge of his brother's park. A double-wide trailer was located on the property; Al eyed it for a minute, then decided it was time to enter the pizza business.
Having zero knowledge about pizza didn't stop him. He worked free at a shop in Blythe, California, 45 miles away to learn the basic skills he'd need. After a month, he was ready to make dough (pun intended).
By 1982, the trailer at the original Silly Al's was home to a seven-booth, 12 counter chair pizza restaurant. Startup money was slim. Due to Al's negotiating abilities, they were ready on opening day witha full kitchen they's bought from owners of a defunct Chinese restaurant.
Because of Al's by-the-bootstraps entrepreneurial spirit, no one was surprised when in 1986 he purchased a patch of land and a tin shed and proclaimed he;d just purchased Silly Al's Pizza number two, the now famous location in Quartzsite. Soon a kitchen had been tacked on and Quartzsite residents (and a small happy crowd of barflies) had a new home.
Family owned and operated in the same location since 1987 by the Robertson family, through Al's son Robbie and his wife Karon. SIlly Al's Quartzsite restaurant was dramatically expanded in 1995 by adding 2,100 square feet of restaurant, dance floor and bar, along with the big kitchen they've always sorely needed.
Elbert Alvin "Silly Al" Robertson passed away in Nov, 2002 leaving a family legacy that continues today through his son Robbie, and his wife Karon.
Robbie reflects back on the development of Silly Al's and shakes his head. "It's amazing," he notes "this place has been a gold mine since we opened. a lot of people tell us our pizza is the best they'bve ever eaten - and these are people who have been all over. And you know, it all started in a double-wide."
A sign along the highway beaming the name 'Silly Al's' proves an effective way to catch the eye of passing motorists.
Al's son, Robbie (and current owner), explains the names origin. "My dad noticed there were some places around town with these strange names, like a truck stop called 'Crazy Otto's' and some others. He always liked names that grab people's attention. So he said, "I'm not really silly, but if I call the place 'Silly Al's' people will think I'm silly and it'll be good for business.' He really wasn't that silly then." Robbie goes on to say "My father was sort of Our landmark, Our mentor, Our Godfather"
'Silly Al' Robertson always felt, and insisted, that the dough is the critical thing. Witha good foundation, it doesnt matter what you put on top. Robbie describes the dough- making and other prepping. "we open at 10, and everybody's prepping, chopping veggies and making sure the meat is ready."
The menu is simple: pizza, calzones, several pastas, gourmet salads and sandwiches. Robbie estimates, that certainly during the busy months, 300 or more pizzas are sold each day and washed down with two to three kegs of beer :the number of cases of beer we sell is diffuicult to say."
175 W Main St
(PO Box 1577)
Quartzsite, Az 85346
World Famous Gourmet Pizza, Pastas and Sandwiches ...Open everyday from 10:00 am to 8:00pm
Silly Al's Pizza
Ph: (928) 927-5585