Story last updated at 2:39 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Spit pizzeria marks one year

Locals, tourists keep business fired up

by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: business
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Sasha Raupp, front, and Julie Miller make a pizza at Finn's on the Homer Spit. Raupp and her partner Bjorn Larson are serving up gourmet pizza for the second summer.  
Lately, locals and tourists alike are finding out that a trip out the Homer Spit is the ticket for wood-fired pizza.

With both slices and whole pies, proprietors Bjorn Larson and Sasha Raupp hope to carve out a niche for themselves by offering pizza made fresh with organic produce and high-quality meats.

Tucked into the row of storefronts across the Spit Road from the harbormaster's office, Finn's Pizza will mark its first anniversary this month.

Locals brought the majority of business last summer, and a strong mix of Homer residents has continued to compliment Finn's growing tourist clientele, Larson said.

With rushes at the lunch hour and dinner, Finn's slices are proving to be a handy and relatively inexpensive way for busy folks to grab lunch on the run.

The cozy restaurant is celebrating its first full May-to-Sept. season in business with the additions of an upstairs solarium, home to a million-dollar view, and a beer-and-wine license.

"A slice of pizza goes so well with beer," Larson said as he indicated the location of the Homer Brewing Co. taps. "It kind of completes the business."

The two-and-a-half-ton wood-fueled oven that dominates Finn's intimate confines traveled 5,000 miles, crossing the continent from White Plains, New York, before coming to rest at the end of the road, quite literally.

Larson found the $5,000 Woodstone oven in the fall of 2000 as he was combing the help-wanted ads in the New York Times.

"It seemed like a small decision at the time," Larson said. "But it definitely sealed the deal."

A few months later, he and his father, Peter Larson, drove up the Alaska Highway in a newly purchased truck, pulling a flat-bed trailer loaded with the oven and a pile of second-hand restaurant gear, including the kitchen sink, purchased from the street-savvy dealers of Manhattan's Bowery district.

Upon arriving in Homer, Larson and Raupp sold the truck.

For Larson, who lived in Homer as a kid and graduated from Homer High School, opening Finn's was a homecoming.

For Raupp, it's been a chance to get acquainted with the place and the people.

"The best thing about (the restaurant) is that I've been getting to meet a lot of great people from Homer," the 26-year-old Raupp said. "It's been a great vehicle for (getting to know) both our clientele and other business people in town."

The couple met while attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., but they cemented their relationship when they crossed paths in Italy. Raupp was in Italy on an exchange program, while Larson put down temporary roots while working in a pizzeria.

"When Bjorn came back from Italy he said, 'Mom, we have to open a pizza place.' That was the first thing that came out of his mouth," Flo Larson recalled. "He never let go of that idea."

Watching the efficiency of the Italians was inspiring, Larson said, not to mention the delicious toppings that went onto the pizza. A few years later, Larson and Raupp are putting those lessons to work, going to lengths to offer wholesome and tasty pizzas, ordering organic produce and specialty meats from Seattle distributors. They are currently working on finding a topping combination that contains ingredients available at the Homer Farmer's Market.

"I'd say that we've certainly worked hard to recreate the Italian pizza ethic," Larson said. "And to do that we've had to have an eye for healthy ingredients."

The couple's towheaded toddler Phineaus, or Finn as he's known, has become nearly as popular an attraction as the hand-tossed pizzas. Little Finn, a 19-month-old ball of energy, has developed a passion for spongy pizza dough as well as crispy crusts.