Back in 1966, the Beatles famously gifted the world with a game-changing rock album called Revolver. When Nick Bodden and Ron Allen opened a pizzeria with the same name in Santa Barbara, California, in 2020, the chefs had to change their game too—thanks to a pair of tricky older ovens that didn’t quite work right.

Like the record that gave us “Eleanor Rigby” and “Got to Get You into My Life,” Revolver—the pizzeria—was a smash hit anyway and was declared “one of California’s best NY-style pizza joints” by this month.

Bodden and Allen are both restaurant veterans who started collaborating on pop-ups in 2016. When COVID-19 struck, Bodden stumbled onto a space that was renting for “lower than anything I’d heard of.” The problem was, he still couldn’t afford it. So the former Long Island and Manhattan resident recruited Allen, who grew up in Santa Barbara, as his chef-partner in the startup that became Revolver.

Related: Is this song going to become a New Haven Apizza anthem?

“I got every flour that was available and made about 13 different batches of dough of different portions,” Allen told SFGate. “And then we came up with a blend of all organic bread flour with whole wheat and rye. Sometimes we’ll mill it ourselves.”

When they started making the pies in their gas-fired ovens, however, they encountered a problem. The ovens run a little hotter at the top and a bit cooler at the bottom, resulting in an uneven bake in both.

To compensate, the chefs had to adjust the cooking time for their pizzas and do a little improvising.

“You’re supposed to run it at 550°, but we run it all out at 700°, which is a no-no,” Allen explained. “But we get a char on the top there, so we rip ‘em up top, get the puff and the char and the crisp, which is closer to the wood-fired, but with more hydration. Then we throw it down below and let it dry out and crisp for that good New York style you want to pick up.”

He added that they reduced a 25-minute bake time to about 15 minutes, noting wryly, “Nobody in the world does it like this because it’s a weird way to do it. You end up in this weird dance.”

Santa Barbara food critics are dancing right along to that quirky back-beat. “Their menu offers an incredible pizza experience unlike any I’ve tasted in Santa Barbara,” Rebecca Horrigan wrote for the Santa Barbara Independent shortly after Revolver opened. She added that the chefs’ “collective ability to tune in to each dish with searing focus [results] in a dining experience that hits all the right notes.”

SFGate writer Andrew Pridgen had his doubts that anyone in Santa Barbara—not exactly famous for its pizza scene—could make a pie worthy of New York. “But the Revolver guys changed my mind,” he wrote.

“Through trial and error and maybe sheer stubbornness, they got it right,” Pridgen added. “The heft of the slice feels perfect. The blistering of the char is, in fact, reminiscent of a wood-fired pizza, but this crust holds up much better under the weight of toppings. The bite is chewy and tangy, almost tart from the fresh sauce. Then the salt from the meat kicks in, and the sweetness of the sun comes through the olive oil.”

And Bodden and Allen have done all that with a pair of ovens that initially gave them fits. As Allen explained it to Pridgen, “The thing about pizza is…you’re powerless to a certain extent. The oven you have is the oven you have. You can either fight your oven every day and copy someone’s style or you can do it with what you have.”

Featured, Pizzerias