Cashew Pizza

In my hometown, Redlands, we celebrate the R on our mountain, exquisite Victorian homes, our once-famous orange groves, and cashews on our pizza. Cashew pizza is a regional idiosyncrasy that I had no idea was unusual until I tried to order cashews on my pizza in Tacoma, Washington. “What? No cashews?” I was outraged, and homesick.

When I was a kid, it seemed that every pizza restaurant in town offered cashews as a topping. Every local gathering that included pizza, included cashews, even school pizza parties. I’ll admit, I was not always a fan, but I learned to love the toasted nutty crunch. When my parents lived in New Jersey, my mom kept cashews on hand to improve the local delivery pizza. My cousin takes a can of cashews into his favorite pizza parlor in Colorado and asks that they add them to his order.

Where and when did this phenomenon begin, and how far has it spread? I have often thought of measuring the reach of cashew pizza by calling all of the pizza joints in a radius of Redlands, but then I assure myself that this would be taking things a bit too far. It is probable that the original cashew pizza was served at Dave’s Fabulous Gay 90s Pizza Parlor, known as Gay 90s or just Gay’s, a popular Redlands restaurant in the 1960s. I’ve heard about the place since I was a kid. My mom went there in college, and from the sound of it, so did everyone else in town. Local legend has it that the bar in the television show Cheers is based on Gay 90s, a place that writers Les and Glen Charles frequented when they were students at the nearby University of Redlands. The owner packed up shop and moved the operation to Olympia, Washington in 1972, where it took the name Dirty Dave’s Gay 90s Pizza, perhaps starting another pocket of cashew pizza frenzy.

The classic Gay 90s pizza, now the ubiquitous Redlands pizza, is topped with pepperoni, sausage, onions and cashews. When I make pizza at home, one is always topped with cashews. A flatbread version with cashews and dried figs was a big hit with my vegetarian friends. Try adding cashews to your pizza sometime and tell me what you think. They taste best when they’ve been warmed in the oven for a few minutes, preferably on the pizza. Delivery pizza is usually undercooked anyway, so if you can bear the wait, put it on a hot pizza stone in the oven with cashews for a couple of minutes before you eat.

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32 Comments on “Cashew Pizza

  1. Oh, you nearly had me there til the end. I’m going to have to say the classic Redlands pizza has the cashews, canadian bacon, and pineapple. Oh the joy of the crunchy, salty nuts and the slightly sour-sweet hot pineapple juice all in one bite.
    But you’re right about the Victorians and the R on the mountain.

  2. My husband would like me to mention that the sausage on the pizza is his homemade Italian sausage. I didn’t want to brag, but now that I am at it, he makes the best sausage I have ever tasted.

  3. I’m right there in agreeing about how wonderful cashew pizza is, and also that Carlos makes incredible sausage! There is no doubt that he was a master chef in another life!

  4. Most of this is true, especially that cashews on pizza originated in our beloved Redlands at Gay 90s.

    However, one point of dispute. The original location of Gay 90s is not where Jersey’s is now. That was the second location. Gay 90s moved there from the corner where Colton Avenue and Redlands Boulevard merge. It was a total dive, and I was weaned there.

    • Thank you! I wondered about that when I wrote it and forgot to check where Jerseys is (I have no idea). Clearly not the blog of a journalist :). Thanks for visiting and setting me straight. I will change the original copy. This has been my most popular blog post. Hundreds of people have already seen it. Maybe our cashew pizza will catch on!

  5. Jerseys is on Orange Street, near the Boulevard. I must confess, I have not tried it since I moved back to Redlands a few years ago. (I’ve been getting my fix elsewhere.) I suppose I should give them a try, though…

    Growing up here, I thought cashews were just the norm — part of the classic flora and fauna inhabiting all pizza topping menus. Didn’t you? We had no idea a place without cashew pizza might actually exist. The mere suggestion would have been blasphemy!

    Then there came a time when I moved out into the wide world, away from Redlands. When I spoke of cashews on pizza, folks would look at me like I was nuts (no pun intended). Like many others, I sometimes resorted to carrying my own little bag of the precious cashews into restaurants, asking the proprietor to add them to my pie. Or I would make my own pizzas at home. On visits back to my hometown, I would freeze a Dave’s Special and take it back on the airplane — seriously!

    Kirsten, there is an entire Facebook group dedicated to the preservation of Cashews on Pizza. You (all) really should join us there!

  6. >> The owner packed up shop and moved the operation to
    >> Olympia, Washington in 1972, where it took the name
    >> Dirty Dave’s Gay 90s Pizza, perhaps starting another
    >> pocket of cashew pizza frenzy.

    I live in Olympia, and cashews on pizza are common here too. In addition to Dirty Dave’s, Vic’s, all 3 Brewery City, and I think maybe Underground Pizza and Oldschool have them. I like cashews and sweet fried peppers at Vic’s, or cashews and green chiles at Dirty Dave’s.

    As proof, here’s Brewery City’s takeout menu: http://www.brewerycity.com/bcpinside/deliverycreate.html

    Taking an out-of-town friend out for cashew pizza last night and seeing how dubious he was about pizza with cashews got me wondering how common they were, and I found this post. Awesome info, thanks!

    And next time you are in Tacoma longing for cashew pizza, just head south a few miles. 🙂

  7. Just think, Corvi — you have some drunk bloke,from many years ago in Redlands, CA, to thank for your local delicacy!

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  9. If you look on Dirtydaves website it explains how cashews got started on Pizzas. It was basically some real drunk customer had Dave put it on his pep, sausage and onion pizza and everyone loved it. I actually make my own just like it and even put the corn meal under the crust just the way they used to do it. Love the cashews! Hate when i go out of town and people think Im crazy.

  10. By the way, since the last time I posted here, I finally got around to sampling the cashew enhanced pizza at Jersey’s. I can say with complete confidence —— YUM-O!!!

  11. I had cashews on a pizza in England, Leeds and i loved it. Live in Durham now and cant get them anymore. Thought of opening my own pizza place just so i can have cashews on a pizza

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  13. I live in Oly, WA. Dirty Daves has the best pizza ever. Don’t know what I am gonna do if I ever have to move.

  14. Wow! – this is fantastic to hear of Redlands’ legends and cashew pizzas. The Gay 90s was an amazing place, business cards stapled on every wall, weird and wonderful characters everywhere, an old Victorian house on a narrow triangle, Borderland Transportation expeditions to Tijuana for Sunday bullfights, filling in as amateur bartender, a misspent youth…
    My recollection of Dave’s Special was cashews, Italian sausage and onions but I could be wrong, could have been with pepperoni too, I also remember the pineapple with canadian bacon too, yum!. They were the best pizzas i’ve ever had.
    If it’s true that Len Charles was inspired by Gay’s, I can believe it – it was a place where everybody knew your name.

    (There is only One Redlands – heh)

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  16. Just started making pizza at home using the no knead, breadin5 method and was searching for unusual toppings when I found this. Will be trying it soon! Do you put raw cashews on the pizza before baking or already toasted ones?
    Cashews are really popular where I come from in Kerala India we put them into curries, sweets, rice…would be really interesting to try them on pizza!

  17. The legend as printed on Dirty Dave’s web site mentions the saltiness of the cashews, which would seem to indicate they were probably roasted and salted rather than raw. Given the time frame when cashews on pizza was invented, I would say that makes more sense. We were not yet “into” healthy options on a wide scale at that point.

    When making my own, I almost always use the roasted variety. I do try to avoid overly salted ones.

    What does matter (to me, at least) is that the cashews need to be on the pizza during the cooking process. Not nearly as yummy if you just toss them on as an afterthought once the pie is out of the oven. They need to meld their flavors with all the other goodness on the ‘za!

  18. Thanks Debz! Agreed, the cashews must cook with the pizza. I grew up with the salted, out-of-a-can variety of cashews on my pizza, and this is the Redlands way. I use raw cashews now because I add cashews in a lot of different foods, and like the versatility of unsalted nuts. Both taste delicious!

    • “the Redlands way…” I like that!

      Now, when will you be sharing some of these cashew-enhanced recipes of yours? Hmmmmmmmmm???? 😉

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  20. I occasionally go to Ft. Casey up on whidbey island, washington state and I stopped at the gay 90’s bar/pizza there and ordered cashew pizza out of curiosity and have been in love ever since.

    • Let me get this straight, mer…

      Is there a place near Ft. Casey that is actually called Gay 90s?

      Or do you stop at Dirty Dave’s in Lacey on your way to Ft. Casey?

  21. Gay 90’s in Redlands had the best pizza ever! I grew up in Redlands and that was a mere 60 years ago…ok make that 62 years. Anyway, I have not had a good slice of pizza since Gays left Redlands. I wish I had Dave’s sauce recipe. Besides the cashews…it was all in the sauce as far as I am cncerned…and the crust…and the sausauge. God, now I need a trip to Washington. Anyone who grew up in Redlands in the 50’s and 60s or went to the U of R would say Gay 90s pizza and the atmosphere and uniqueness is a fond memory. My best friend Valerie, her family would take us there and we’d bkurn our little tongues on the oh so delicious pizzas, which her dad would order more than one and Cashew was always our favorite. Ok thank you. Marcia Welch

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