Inside South San Jose’s sprawling new Village Oaks development—billed as Santana Row 2.0—MOD Pizza offers a neighborhood vibe in a sea of franchise dining options.

Although it’s a chain restaurant with more than 40 locations across the country, MOD Pizza, which specializes in make-it-your-way creations, strives for the feel of a local joint. The decor features a wall collaged with photos of customers, employees and San Jose landmarks such as the City Hall Rotunda and Tower Hall at San Jose State University. A 3-D “SAN JOSE” sign built from soldered sheets of metal decorates another of the room’s panels. Exposed wooden beams, planked tables, aluminum stools with seats that resemble tree stumps and a playlist of ’80s pop and ska give the place an atmosphere aimed at avoiding some of the usual corporate schtick.

Ordering a pizza is easy and customizable. Customers start with plain dough (gluten-free options are available) in either a Mini (6″, $4.87), Mod (11″, $7.87) or Mega (11″ double crust, $10.87). About a dozen pizza creations are available that can be customized, or diners can start from scratch and build a pizza to their exact taste. A major plus: no additional charges for toppings.
In assembly line fashion, employees build the pizza. Despite a throng of customers, pizzas are put together by cheerful and chatty employees. The pizzas are cooked just a few at a time in a gas-fired oven that reaches up to 800 degrees, resulting in a crisp, slightly charred crust typical of gourmet pizzerias.

The Maddy classic cheese pizza is a winner, but what’s the point of building your own pizza if a single topping is all that’s desired? For my base, I started with the Jasper, which comes with red sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms and spicy Italian sausage. To that already winning combination I added red onions, roasted garlic cloves, parmesan cheese and a handful of fresh arugula after it cooked in the oven. The pizza’s toppings were a delicious combination, with the flavors of sweet and salty roasted garlic, sweet red onions and spiced sausage most prevalent. I was blown away by how crisp the dough was. It had a flaky, almost Saltine-like quality that may not please all pizza purists, but for fast casual I was pleasantly surprised.

From scratch, I built my attempt at a white pizza with white sauce, a blend of cheeses, roasted garlic cloves and mushrooms. The resulting pizza was a flavor blast of subtly sweet garlic and salty cheese. MOD carries a collection of craft beer in bottles as well as on draft from Northern California breweries such as North Coast Brewing Company, Pyramid Brewery and Lost Coast Brewery. With just the right balance of hoppiness, the Lost Coast Indica IPA makes for a perfect pizza beer.

MOD Pizza
5670 Cottle Road, San Jose. 669.400.5375