'It's not corporate pizza': Merlin's Pizza serves up original, local pies

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com
Rick Johnson, who co-owns the restaurant with his father Bruce Johnson, carries a stack of boxes bearing the company's slogan, "Life is too short to eat corporate pizza." ANNIE BLANKS/THE LOG

There are exactly 65 pepperonis on a Merlin’s Pepperoni Explosion pizza.

The pizza makers at Merlin’s Pizza have had 18 years to perfect the art of fitting all those pepperonis on a 16-inch doughy circumference. But they don’t stop with pepperonis. Their menu includes pizzas such as the Polla Bella, which is piled high with grilled chicken, artichoke hearts and roasted garlic, among other things, and the Ranch Chicken Club, with its ham, bacon, chicken, tomatoes and cheese.

“The big thing with us is that it’s not corporate pizza,” said Rick Johnson, who co-owns the restaurant with his father, Bruce Johnson. “It’s a mom and pop, or pop and son, when you really get down to it. We make our own dough and sauce every day, and all of our ingredients are really fresh. That’s what sets us apart.”

Merlin’s Pizza has been delighting the taste buds of Destinites and vacationers for nearly two decades. Aside from a brief experiment with expansion, Merlin’s has remained the same local, independent pizza joint it was when it opened in 1999.

Johnson said the secret to Merlin’s success is the employees.  

“When you have good people, everything else falls into place,” he said. “You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t have the right people to put it together, to serve it and to talk to people, it’s nothing.”

Merlin’s General Manager Paul Dover said another secret to the business’ success is taking pride in the pizzas he and his team put out.

“We are proud of our pizzas,” he said. “We use the highest quality ingredients. We make sure our pizzas come out looking great and tasting great.”

Johnson said that though he appreciates people from out of town who come back to Merlin’s for pizza year after year, it’s the locals who really make the restaurant successful.

“This community just supports us and they stay with us,” he said. “They are what has kept us going through the years. The crew I have here is great, and the guests are even better.”