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Little pizza from a big boy chef

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Little pizza from a big boy chef

Johnathon Cushman methodically sets the sauce on the pizza dough before his mini-pizzas go into the oven.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED June 13, 2009 2:36 a.m.
There’s a “Little Chef” at David and Sylvia’s Restaurant creating his own signature mini-pizzas.

The little pizzas were designed with other kids in mind. Johnathon Cushman, who is only 7, has learned a lot about the restaurant watching his dad and older brother David Cook, and his mother, grandmother and aunt greet and serve their patrons.

His 4-inch little pizzas include a couple small pieces of chicken, olives and a sprinkling of cheese.  

“I’m a great chef – yeah – I make pizza pretty good,” he said.

They are going on the menu today which is the actual ninth anniversary of the business.

Johnathon manages to be “Johnny-on-the-spot” in the middle of the restaurant’s anniversary celebration.  When he’s not busy with his cooking he can be seen helping in the lobby wearing his chef’s hat, showing diners to their seats and taking drink orders and delivering baskets of bread.

“He’s just our little helper,” his mother Sylvia says with a broad smile.

The 7-year-old added that he made cupcakes Thursday with his dad for his own birthday.

“I draw pretty good,  too – and I don’t mess up,” he chimed.

With his mind focused on food he coincidentally draws pictures of corn dogs and loves to play checkers.

Both Johnathon, and his 17-year-old brother David, have grown up in the restaurant their grandparents opened over 30 years ago as Pietro’s.  It was nine years ago that Jack and Lillian retired and their son David and his wife Sylvia kept the doors open to the 150-seat restaurant using their first names.

David said he has just has had a passion for food preparation from an early age.  He remembers in 1973, it was the first year the schools offered home economics to guys and shop to girls.  He was one of two of the boys who chose home ec, he said.

“Except for a couple of summers working as a grease monkey, I have been in this line of work since I was 15,” he added.  “What we wanted to offer was an old ‘Mom and Pop’ tradition, becoming a mom and pop place.

Comfort food works in troubled economy
“The way the economy is – that’s what people are looking for – what reminds them of home – nothing does it like comfort food,” he said.

Teenage son David is going into his senior year at Manteca High School in the fall where he has found a growing love for American History and he is also a member of the leadership team.  He hopes to go into politics as a career when he graduates from college.

David spends quite a bit of his after school time at the restaurant where he wears many hats from cook to bus boy – wherever the need – even washing dishes at times.  He will be going to the American Legion sponsored Boys State leadership conference that is being held in Sacramento late next week where he  will meet with legislators, and take part in political role playing with other students from around the state – all living in the college dorms.

The Manteca High senior said his best memories growing up come from the warmth of family he has enjoyed from the restaurant,  and in meeting the Manteca patrons he has come to know.  “Our family has been here for 30 years – when I think of this place, I think of family – even had my birthday parties and most meals here,” he said.


Sylvia said their goal is to try to seat their guests within two minutes – especially at lunch time. “We try to be as prompt as we can,” she said.  Also, those who have a short lunch hour may call ahead and their food will be hot and ready for them when they arrive she promises.

Restaurant founder with the Pietro’s franchise, Jack Cushman continues to be involved in the Manteca Kiwanis Club that meets in the restaurant’s banquet room Tuesdays at noon.

The entire family has been involved in the Helping Hands Ministry at their Cornerstone Community Church – feeding the homeless.  

In celebrating their ninth anniversary they are offering their steak sandwiches today for only $9 – the same as their years in business -- plus the governor’s tax, of course.   Also they provide entrees on their dinner menu of everything from steak to broiled salmon and broiled chicken breast – with a pride in the fact 75 percent of their menu is made from scratch.

The restaurant has added their dinner time “Stimulus Menu” where entrées can be ordered at a cost of $20 for two diners after 4 p.m.   Normally closed on Sundays, they will be open for their clientele to celebrate Fathers’ day from 4 p.m. until 10, Sunday, June 21.
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