Blue Moon Pizza is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in Fort Myers, despite its prominent signage and high-profile location on College Parkway. Every day, thousands of people drive by the restaurant and yet, they still manage to miss it.
Owner, president and general manager Peter Barli says, “This is not only a local destination restaurant, but a local secret, with one of the best bars, too.” At this inviting establishment, it’s Happy Hour all day every day, and with top-shelf liquors to boot.
Barl i is a fourth-generation Floridian from a family of restaurateurs. Reminiscing, he says with a smile, “Do you remember the Brown Derby? My older brother ran that for 10 years.”
Blue Moon is a family business that started in Atlanta and has expanded to other Georgia locations. Now in its sixth year of operation in Fort Myers, Blue Moon has some unique characteristics that set it apart from other pizza restaurants.
For one thing, the dough is made fresh, twice daily. It’s hand rolled, hand tossed and hand stretched to order. Best of all, it’s fun to watch its transformation in the open kitchen. Kids also get a ball of dough to stretch and get creative with. “Sometimes we’ll even cook their dough formations for them while they watch,” Barli says.
He takes great pride in the highquality ingredients used to make the pizzas, salads and other Blue Moon menu items. The produce is delivered daily and the chicken is fresh, never frozen. The pepperoni is carefully sourced from a family producer and the cheese is from Wisconsin; dairy-free options are also available.
“I’ve been fortunate to be associated with some incredible (restaurant) organizations and the ones that stuck to their guns with fresh ingredients are the ones that survived,” says Barli. “It makes a difference. People DO care about it.”
Barli has always had a passion for food, and began working in restaurants when he was a teenager. “I cooked my way through school at the University of Florida.” Upon graduation, he enrolled in Steak & Ale’s management program, eventually becoming a partner in Outback Steakhouse, a regional joint venture partner for Carrabba’s, and president of Lee Roy Selmon’s.
His expertise is reflected in every aspect of Blue Moon.
The pizzas are thin crust with the exception of Grandma’s Pizza. Made Sicilian style, this one is covered in Blue Moon’s signature cheese blend, hand crushed plum tomatoes, garlic, and basil, and then baked and cut into thick squares.
Traditional pies are available in three sizes and can be personalized with a sufficiently broad selection of toppings to please everyone from carnivores to vegetarians. But the specialty pies that include chicken — namely the Greek, Jerk or spicy Santa Fe selections — are especially impressive. The Santa Fe Chicken pizza has a black bean sauce, topped with cheese, chicken, slices of pickled jalapeno peppers and red onion. It’s finished with spicy ranch dressing, fresh cilantro, and cool, creamy chunks of avocado. It is fantastic.
For diners on the go, Blue Moon offers Take and Bake pizza. Pizza is best when it comes fresh out of the oven; cheese stringy and piping hot. For diners who prefer to eat in the comfort of their own home but still want a top quality pizza hot from the oven, this option is ideal. Each pizza is made to order and available for pick-up or delivery. Pop it in the oven and in less than 15 minutes, voila! You have a perfectly cooked pizza.
Gluten free (GF) diners need not be disheartened. Not only does Blue Moon serve tasty GF dough, it also has a welltrained kitchen staff that is meticulous about cross contamination with flour, a big deal for people with the most severe gluten issues.
There are also GF desserts and substantial salads for those with dietary restrictions. Highlights of the Wedge Salad include addicting candied–cayenne bacon, crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing. Blue Moon also serves a nice selection of appetizers. For starters, try the popular Portabella Mushrooms covered with Grandma’s sauce, plus goat cheese and basil.
Hearty, cheese-filled Calzones and Strombolis are on the menu, along with the trademarked Blue Moon Flatwich®. Made from pizza dough, and just a little thicker than a Panini, the toasty dough is loaded with your choice of ingredients then folded over and served warm. Barli describes the Flatwich® as “nothing but yum!”
Reminiscent of the bar from “Cheers,” Blue Moon’s bar is a favorite gathering spot for many locals. It’s also a great place to land before or after a show at the nearby Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
When tweaking menus and adding features to enhance the dining experience, Barli and his team take great pride in listening to guests. Take, for instance, the noise levels in the dining room. “When it got busy, the noise levels would often elevate.” To bring down the decibels, Barli recently added sound-dampening panels to the high, open ceilings, which made an immediate and noticeable difference.
The expansive outdoor patio also has seen some upgrades with the addition of large flat-screen TVs, festive bistro lighting and aesthetically pleasing foliage. Besides being dog friendly, the patio also is an ideal spot for large parties and celebrations.
Blue Moon sits back from College Parkway between U.S. 41 and Summerlin Road, so it can be easy to miss. Look for the blue 1961 International Harvester fire truck parked in front. It’s been converted into a full-service pizza truck for special events.
(Blue Moon is located at 7381 College Parkway in Fort Myers. Open 7 days at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner. Closes at 10 p.m. Sunday — Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Full liquor bar with Happy Hour specials all day, every day. Indoor and patio seating. Delivery and catering available. Phone: 239-936-2583. For more information: www.bluemoon. com or download the Blue Moon app.)