Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 4:58 PM on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rosco's Pizza reopens after short break

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Ross and Carol Cameron's market research on the Kenai Peninsula led to their decision to open Rosco's Pizza in Ninilchik.

A passion for "making killer pizza" was the fuel behind Ross and Carol Cameron's opening of Rosco's Pizza in Ninilchik in November 2010. Following a brief vacation, the Camerons are back on the Kenai Peninsula with plans to reopen Rosco's on Valentine's Day.

They are celebrating the reopening with specials that will run through the winter season:

• Two-for-one two-topping pizzas on Saturdays;

• $9 all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner, complete with garlic sticks and a dinner salad, from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The dining room, with a seating capacity of 55, also is being furnished with creations from local craftsman Ken Scofield of Bear Essentials in Anchor Point. The walls have been dressed up with murals created by Linda Smith, an artist originally from Cooper Landing and now a Kenai resident.

Stories about his grandfather's adventures in Alaska were the motivation for Cleveland, Ohio, native Ross Cameron to come north.

"He was a big outdoorsman and so was I," said Ross. "My intention was to come up for one summer season, maybe two."

Following his arrival, Ross landed a job in 1998 as the executive chef at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge near Denali and "liked it so much I stayed."

Meanwhile, Carol, originally from Buffalo, N.Y., became tired of her job at a hat factory and decided a change was in order. She moved to Alta, Utah, to spend winters skiing and then to Alaska where she could spend her summers seeing bears in the wild. Her first summer in Alaska led to a job at Lynx Creek Pizza near Denali.

Ross and Carol met in 1999, when Ross hired Carol to work for him at the lodge. Combining their interests, the couple became ski and trout bums, skiing in Tahoe, Calif., in the winter and trout fishing in Cooper Landing in the summers.

"It was very interesting, but not what you'd consider lucrative, not very steady," said Ross.

Working together two seasons at a pizza restaurant in Cooper Landing not only added to Ross' 30 years of experience in the food service industry, but gave the couple a familiarity with the Kenai Peninsula.

"I've been in the food service business since I was 16, working everywhere from Southern California to Dallas, New Orleans, Boston and the resort business basically in Tahoe and Alaska," said Ross. "I've held every position from executive chef to waiter and food and beverage director."

In October 2010, the Camerons bought the Happy Wok, a Ninilchik restaurant specializing in Chinese cuisine. They reopened it as Rosco's Pizza the following month.

Rosco's Pizza

Owners: Ross and Carol Cameron

Location: 15915 Sterling Highway, Ninilchik

Phone: (907) 567-1060

Hours (winter): Lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday

Hours (summer): Breakfast from 7-10 a.m.; lunch and dinner from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.

On the Web/facebook: www.roscospizzaalaska.com

Why pizza?

"It was purely a matter of market research," said Ross. "We went from Homer to Kenai, visited restaurants and decided the thing needed most was to open a pizza joint."

Some might wonder at the wisdom of opening a business just as winter is settling on the Kenai Peninsula, but the timing was part of Ross and Carol's strategy.

"We wanted to get in there, get opened up as fast as we could and get a feel for the place before the summer season," said Ross. "I pity people that try to open up a new venture in April and try to work things out while they get hammered by tourists."

He also credits their success with "having an excellent product coming out of the gate, so we weren't reinventing the wheel." The pizza dough recipe is one the Camerons have used with success in the past and everything else on Rosco's Pizza menu is "pretty much made from scratch."

To be added during the upcoming tourist season, mid-June to mid-August, are fasts of the grab-and-go variety, such as breakfast sandwiches, and box lunches "so people can get breakfast and a sandwich and go at the same time," said Ross. After wintering out of state, the Camerons also are adding some new twists, such as a "California Dreaming" sandwich with guacamole, sun-dried tomatoes and home-baked focaccia. Also being added is reindeer sausage as a pizza topping and a French onion soup.

Single slices of pizza are served until 3 p.m. Pizza delivery is not offered, but the restaurant is available for private parties and catering.

Rosco's Pizza employees a 12-person crew once tourists start arriving.

"We're going to expand a little bit this year," said Ross. "As a matter of fact, we are looking for a person to be our supervisor during the summer season."

Anyone interested in the position can email the Camerons at roscospizza@live.com.

A newly constructed website, complete with coupons, is soon to be unveiled at www.roscospizzaalaska.com.

"We are happy to be (in Ninilchik) and we love the community," said Ross. "We miss the Cooper Landing people, but it's nice to see them when they come through."

For their mid-winter break, the Camerons visited with family in California and managed to follow one of their interests: skiing. They plan to do that again in future years by closing the restaurant for the month of January.

What about trout-fishing?

"I went fishing three times last year," said Ross. "The restaurant was kind of consuming."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.