Road trip : Castaways Pizza / Conneaut Township Park.
"There’s nothing more exciting, liberating and powerful in the life of a traveler than hitting the road at a moment’s notice to explore somewhere new."
Our family is all about taking weekend road trips and long weekends. Jumping in the car and driving somewhere at the drop of a dime. Twelve years ago we started a family tradition of visiting presidential grave sites. Yes I am a history nerd, but there are more to these trips than just visiting a historic grave. When looking into Presidential grave sites I noticed how many were within driving distance of Youngstown Ohio. Around this time we could not afford plane tickets to fly anywhere. Long weekend road trips were our only option. My wife was skeptical at the time. After our first long weekend trip to Buffalo NY to visit the grave site of President Millard Fillmore, she had a change of heart.
These trips were not just about going to a grave site. These adventures were about exploring towns that we would never even think to visit or drive through. We visit local parks, local museums, local bowling alleys. Every small town has stories and businesses that are worth experiencing. With our limited budget we would always get local pizza to eat in our hotel rooms. You could say that this was the beginning of our pizza review days.
The more videos we post on our website and Facebook Page "Youngstown Pizza Reviews", the more requests we get to try different pizza spots. We get quite a bit of recommendations from places outside of the Youngstown area. While we are focused on supporting our local Youngstown Pizza Shops, we are also all for supporting local Pizza Shops in the surrounding areas. Any excuse to jump in the car and drive an hour or so to explore is a good thing.
The pizza shop that I have gotten a ton of requests for is Castaways Pizza in Conneaut Ohio. Full disclosure......these requests have all come from the same person. One of our "top fans" always comments on our posts with the same theme. "When are you going to Castaways". "Why haven't you gone to Castaways yet". "Castaways is the best pizza in Ohio". Through Facebook messages I come to find out that this pizza is the closest thing he could find to his hometown pizza up in NY. I also find out that he had to spend some time in Conneaut at the hospital. This was how he got to try Castaways Pizza. Years later he still makes the hour drive to get this pizza.
After (what felt like) the 100th comment I decided that we had to make the drive. I also got in contact with the owner of Castaways Pizza to get a bit of the history behind this restaurant.
We have made many trips to Presque Isle to enjoy the beaches of Lake Erie but have never been to Conneaut. I never even knew they had a Lake Erie Beach there. Turns out that Conneaut Township Park is referred to as a hidden gem. My daughter and I grabbed our things and took the drive up North to see what the fuss was about.
My first impression of Conneaut Township Park was that it is a lot quieter than Presque Isle. The beach was a lot bigger than I had anticipated. There is a nice wooden walkway down the beach which I enjoyed also. You could take a walk without getting sand in your shoes. I prefer a quieter less crowded atmosphere. The fact that it is about 30 minutes closer to Youngstown each way is a bonus as well. If you are looking for a nice Lake Erie beach, around an hour from Youngstown, I could not recommend this beach enough. There is also a large pavilion with a little snack bar serving some food items like hot dogs and hamburgers. We were not here for any beach food though.....we were here for pizza!
Castaways Pizza was a 2 minute drive from the Township Park. The building itself has great curb appeal. It is the perfect looking pizza spot for a place right down the road from a beach.
Kristina Showalter is the owner of Castaways Pizza. Kristina comes from a large Italian family and has been around the kitchen most of her life. "Cooking runs in my blood and it is something I love to do...I love being in the kitchen creating new pizzas and specials to share"
Born and raised in Conneaut, Kristina still calls Conneaut home. She lives there with her 2 kids who are 4, and 12 years old. "I adore being by the lake"
On top of being a restaurateur, Kristina is a full time Branch Manager of a local finance company. "I have been in consumer finance since my senior year in college and never thought I would own a restaurant!"
Kristina's sister Jennifer Betts manages Castaways during the day. Kristina says this is one of the biggest factors in Castaway's success."I'm blessed to have my sister manage the restaurant during the day so i can maintain my career"
The building has been a pizza shop since 1981. Before that it was a fruit stand. Kristina's venture into the pizza business began a number of years ago. "I bought the former Anthony's Pizza 7 years ago and renamed and re-branded it". Some things stayed the same. "We kept the same dough recipe which dates back 2-3 owners ago" says Kristina. "I also kept some menu items like the popular Terry's Pizza and The Godfather Sub. We added a lot of new items as well and some seafood to the mix"
Now the important part....the pizza. If you are new to our page we like to review our first impressions to get a true reaction to a new Pizza Shop. Please watch our video below to get our official review. Like I said earlier, a member of our Facebook page has this pizza on the top of his list. While it may not end up being our all time favorite pizza like his, it was very very good none-the-less.
Castaways Pizza is a must stop if you are up this way. The customer base they have created by the lake speaks volumes about the quality of food and service they provide.
Owner Kristina Showalter has embraced a customer first approach that ties directly in to her large Italian upbringing. "At Castaways we treat our employees and customers like family....after all it is our second home!"
No matter where you go on your next weekend road trip please make it a point to find a locally owned pizza shop like Castaways Pizza and give them a try. You never know if you will stumble upon a gem that reminds you of home.
Jennifer Betts (left) and her sister Kristina Showalter