Velvet Elvis Pizza Co. in Patagonia, AZ
Velvet Elvis Pizza Co. is known for its creative pizzas
Published January/February 2016

Where Pizza Is the King

Patagonia's Velvet Elvis serves up gourmet slices with culinary zeal

BYBryn Bailer
If you bake it, they will come. And if you bake Italian fare like they do at Velvet Elvis Pizza Co., they will come from near and far.
 
The cozy cafe is located in Patagonia, Arizona, 18 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. A former mining supply camp, Patagonia is refashioning itself into an eco-tourism destination. The restaurant specializes in healthy and homemade soups, organic salads, hearty calzones, and, of course, designer pizzas.
 
When Ecuador-born Cecilia San Miguel journeyed here in search of healthier living, opening a restaurant wasn’t part of the plan. But after a series of serendipitous encounters (including a chance meeting with a recipe-bearing itinerant pizza chef from New York City), the Velvet Elvis opened its doors in 1998. 
 
The décor is trendy, but casual. Heavily textured walls are painted in shades of paprika red, deep caramel, and vivid turquoise. The poured-concrete floor is stenciled with petroglyph-like icons, and original artwork is everywhere. And in case you’re wondering, Elvis is definitely in the building. A kitschy portrait of a Las Vegas-era Elvis Presley, painted on stretched black velvet, is on prominent, permanent display. The King is no doubt pleased.
 
The Food
Health-conscious diners can start with a selection of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. Alternatively, there are seven varieties of tequila, beer, fine wines, and standout house margaritas.
 
The salads are fun and filling, and the calzones are full of gooey, cheesy goodness. But the pizzas are what draw people from all cardinal directions. “Food, to me, is a celebration,” San Miguel says, who also is the restaurant’s executive chef. “I want them to feel the joy of life through food.”
 
The most popular pizza is called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and is a meat lover’s treat, stacked with pepperoni, sausage, and Canadian bacon. But not to be missed is “The Exorcist” — a vegetarian pie boasting roasted red peppers, garden-fresh basil, chewy cloves of roasted garlic, and crumbles of Gorgonzola and mozzarella.
 
And don’t forget the popular “Inca Quinoa,” a deep-dish pizza with a quinoa-flour crust, a symphony of cheeses, and a host of vegetarian toppings. It is generously sized, customizable, and so labor-intensive that it requires 24-hour advance notice to the chef.
 
Loyal customers include international visitors who flock to Patagonia for the world-class birding, visitors who journey up from south of the border, and fans throughout Arizona. 
BRYN BAILER is a writer who, on family trips to Nogales, was terrified by clown-themed black-velvet paintings.
If You Go
Velvet Elvis Pizza Co.
292 Naugle Ave., Patagonia; 520-394-2102; velvetelvispizza.com
 
While you’re in town: Thanks to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, the region offers world-class bird-watching. You also can take streamside hikes through riparian forests, fish at trout-stocked Patagonia Lake, and sample award-winning vintage wines at vineyards in Sonoita and Elgin.
 

Learn More
Discover more fun places to try in Arizona at AAA.com or by calling your local AAA Travel agent at 1-888-870-9392.
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