Cheap Eats: Nittany Pizza branded with blue and white
Hours after Tom Drivas signed papers to obtain the name Nittany Pizza for his restaurant, the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke.
His lawyer called and asked if he wanted to change the name, but Drivas decided to stick with it.
"Penn State's not going anywhere," he told his lawyer in November 2011. "It'll be a tough time, but this too shall pass."
In March, the 47-year-old Penn State fan opened Nittany Pizza in York Township, where he sells pizza, sandwiches, burgers, strombolis and beer.
Drivas worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years. Before Nittany, he owned Kirby's Café & Pub in Manchester Township. Kirby's -- an Irish-themed bar and restaurant -- featured casual fare, such as wings and burgers.
When a developer contacted Drivas more than three years ago and asked to buy his land, he decided to close Kirby's and try something new.
He took several months off to "recharge his battery," and watched a lot of "Diners Drive-ins and Dives" and "Man v. Food" for menu inspiration.
Drivas wanted the name of his pizza shop to stand out. He didn't want to name it something like "Brothers'" or "Cousins'" or "Mama's."
He turned to Google, and learned that there's a Razorback Pizza in Arkansas, a Gator Pizza in Florida, but no Nittany Pizza in Pennsylvania. He was sold.
I stopped by the eatery to buy some takeout for lunch on a recent Tuesday. Enlarged vintage PSU program covers hung on the taupe walls. Dark wooden tables and booths filled the restaurant, and two beer coolers displayed "Nittany Pizza" in blue and white.
I had checked out the menu before I arrived and ordered a Turkey Wraparito, a burrito-like wrap filled with turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomato and Bangin' spread -- a garlic and herb aoili.
Drivas said he created the Wrapartio after experimenting with Pittsburgh-style sandwiches that come topped with french fries and cole slaw. When he tried making a wrap with fries and slaw, the ingredients didn't fit. So he used a larger tortilla and folded it like a burrito.
He said his most popular menu items are his baked-to-order sandwiches the Frat Boy -- hamburger, chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, fries, marinara sauce, lettuce, tomato and Bangin' spread -- and the Penn Stater -- Philly steak, sautéed onions, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, lettuce, tomato and Bangin' spread.
The restaurant's vegan and vegetarian sandwiches and pizzas also have done well. Drivas said he might have created a niche where vegans and non-vegans can dine and still enjoy their foods of choice.
Drivas said a lot of Penn State students, alumni and fans visit his restaurant.
Although he supports Penn State football, he said he also believes in the education the school offers and all it has done as an institution.
Nittany Pizza contributes to THON Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which raises money and awareness to fight pediatric cancer.
He believed in Penn State enough to brand his restaurant in blue and white, despite all of the controversy. He said he made a good choice.
"You have the actions of a few adults sort of tarnishing the school," he said. "Then you have the students doing a great thing. In the long run, the good will outweigh the bad."
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants, aiming to please our palates and our wallets. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 717-771-2101, email@example.com, @leighzaleski.
LOCATION: 2073 Springwood Road, York Township
CUISINE: Pizza, sandwiches and strombolis
LEIGH'S PICK: Turkey Wraparito ($5.99)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday;
11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
PRICE RANGE: $1.99 to $17.99
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: 717-650-2648 or visit www.nittanypizza.com