Nostalgic Eats: Mom's Pizza in Cebu Is Still Going Strong

We try their Hawaiian Special, too.

SPOT.ph) You can't really go wrong with pizza. It could be a treat for a special occasion, from get-togethers with friends or family to simply giving yourself a slice or two. If you grew up in Cebu City in the 1990s or the early 2000s, you’ll know that tasty pizza can be bought right at the school canteen, in malls, food courts, outside churches, and even on the sidewalks! This was before the city was swamped with so many pizza places. That’s right, we’re talking about the holy grail of Cebu’s local pizzas: Mom’s Pizza.

This Cebuano staple was a favorite for just the right reasons: it was affordable, simple, served hot, and had the right Filipino flavors to satisfy both kids and adults alike. All you had to do was order at one of its many stalls and watch as the vendor slips the pizza in the stove top oven. It comes out piping hot and there’s nothing left but to enjoy the sweet taste. 

mom's pizza cebu
Its homemade appeal remains.
PHOTO BY Jorisse Gumanay ILLUSTRATION War Espejo
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And yes, after so many years, Mom’s Pizza is still here to stay. But first, let’s take a look at how the brand grew from its earliest roots.

Mom's Pizza: Homemade Family Pizza Since 1988

Mom’s Pizza was founded in 1988 by Erlinda Alvarico. It was a true-blue family business that she operated with her husband right at their home in Bulacao, Cebu City. Erlinda used her skills in cooking in venturing into the food business, following a stint at shell craft, which wasn’t as successful for the family. 

Today, it still remains a family business, now run by Erlinda’s son, Ricker Mark Alvarico, along with his wife. Perhaps that can help explain why Mom’s Pizza still retains that distinct family-friendly flavor and vibe.

During the early years, the brand didn’t have as much competition when it came to the pizza scene. Instead, they only had to deal with other street-snack favorites. “It was just the banana cue and hotcakes,” he says. He recalls that the pizza was sold for only P20 to 25 per box at the time, which probably explains the mass appeal. A slice could be sold for just P2.50 then! Remember being in school and buying a plastic-wrapped slice with your meager baon? Raise your hand if you ever tried your best to unstick the plastic from the sauce and cheese! (If you failed at it, you could always lick the plastic yourself. It’s that good.)

The pizza came in the classic green and white boxes for some time, featuring just the brand’s logo. People would most likely remember having to choose between two flavors: the regular, which was ham and cheese, and the special, which was the Hawaiian option. The latter was a bit higher in price and had more savory ingredients. Both were equally sought after by many.

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mom's pizza cebu
Mom's Pizza's current packaging.
PHOTO BY Jorisse Gumanay ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

Kids back then were divided when it came to the raisins on the regular Mom’s Pizza pizza flavor. Some liked it just fine, while others would pick them out to throw away. Meanwhile, the Hawaiian flavor made the taste extra sweet with the pineapple pieces, along with the ham and salami (which tastes more like processed meat and is sweeter and less spicy than the Italian version). Even the bread itself had a sweet taste.

In general, Mom’s pizza will give you an overload of sweet and spice on a soft and thick, bread-like crust. No matter what, it was always best to eat it hot, which is just how many enjoyed it. Remember the warm, bready smell right after the pizza was taken out of the oven? It’s surely enough to take you back! And, if you wanted yours spicy, there was always hot sauce nearby. 

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With so many pizza places now popping up all over Cebu, how did the brand survive for over 30 years? Ricker has this to say: “I think the taste itself has made the business survive for a long time.” He adds that most people are reminded of the time when they were young and enjoyed local snacks at school, with no worries. Currently, Mom’s Pizza is enjoying popularity through its many dealers and franchises all over Cebu.

mom's pizza stall
A Mom's Pizza stall in Cebu
PHOTO BY Jorisse Gumanay

 If you’re looking to enjoy a box or two of the pizza, you can now choose among four different flavors. Along with Hawaiian Special (salami, ham, cheese, and pineapple) and Ham and Cheese (salami, cheese, and raisins), Mom’s Pizza also offers Double Cheese Regular and Double Cheese Special (both of which are meat-free!).

What’s Mom’s Pizza Like in 2021?

For this story, we headed over to a Mom’s Pizza stall and ordered a box of their Hawaiian Special (P120), the classic that many of us had enjoyed during our younger days. It was served just as hot and fresh from the oven as it was done back in the day. The classic box has been transformed into a more modern version, with the logo and a picture of the pizza on it. Inside, the soft dough is still topped with sweet sauce, ham, salami, lots of cheese, and pineapple. Even the plastic wrapper at the bottom is still there, along with a packet of hot sauce and tissues.

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mom's pizza cebu
Its homemade appeal remains.
PHOTO BY Jorisse Gumanay

So, does the pizza live up to its nostalgic appeal? We say yes! The taste is exactly as many of us remember: the combination of the typical Pinoy-style sweet sauce and the bits of cheese, along with a tangy hint and just a tiny bit of spice. The pineapple and olive pieces give a sweet and sour variety to the overall flavor. The bread is slightly thicker and crustier on the edges, but it has the same soft texture and slightly sweet taste. If you miss the doughy aroma, it’s definitely still there. Who remembers saving the pieces of ham for the last bite with each slice? Or folding the bread to make a pizza sandwich?  

mom's pizza cebu
You can get a whole pizza for a little over P100.
PHOTO BY Jorisse Gumanay ILLUSTRATION War Espejo
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Mom’s Pizza remains a staple in the local food scene in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, even with the many pizzerias all over the place. It might be easy to look down on the simple fare of this brand, but it has never pretended to be anything more. It’s homemade, with all the comforts of the home cooking of one’s childhood.

These days, the Mabolo branch offers delivery, and customers can message the shop privately through its Facebook page. The next time you’re hungry but don’t know what to get, perhaps consider treating yourself to comfort and a bit of nostalgia with Mom’s Pizza. As they say, the simpler the better, and it doesn’t get simpler than this local savory pizza.

Mom's Pizza has stalls and branches in Cebu, including in Mabolo, IT Park, and Lapu-Lapu. For delivery orders and more information, check out Mom's Pizza's Facebook page.

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