At Pizza to the Rescue, 25 percent of all pizza sales help support the moms and pups at Almost There rescue find new forever homes (submitted photo).

Hunter Rodgers may have some impressive mentors in the world of restaurateurs, but with the opening of his first restaurant, Pizza to the Rescue at 26th Street and Indian School Road, he aims to make his own mark on Phoenix’s culinary landscape, while at the same time making a positive impact in his community.

A Phoenix native, Rodgers loved cooking growing up, so much so that he spent his summers during high school and college volunteering in the kitchen of family friend Vincent Guerithault at his Vincent on Camelback restaurant.

“I worked in his kitchen and learned a foundation of French classic cooking. I really loved it,” Rodgers recalled.

After college, he moved to Los Angeles and pursued investment banking and finance for six years, then came back home in 2017-2018. Not long after that, between 2018-2019, he and longtime girlfriend Geri Hormel, founder of Almost There, a mom and pups rescue, were looking at a group of buildings for sale on the corner of 26th Street and Indian School Road, and the front building just felt right for a restaurant.

“There’s some sort of energy in here that really felt like it was begging to become a restaurant,” Rodgers said, “Street frontage on Indian School, a big sign, room for a patio. So, the idea was to create something that we both love. I love cooking and she could run the dog rescue from the opposite building. We figured that combining the two – pizza and puppies – couldn’t be a bad thing.”

Although the rescue has been operating at 2611 E. Indian School Road for a few years now, after starting work on the restaurant in July 2020 and facing plenty of setbacks, Pizza to the Rescue finally opened April 4 of this year, and the reception from the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s really exciting to see a lot of people from the neighborhood coming in here telling us how long they’ve been waiting for this to open,” Rodgers said. “They kind of watched our progress over the last few years.”

He describes the vibe as super cool and very eclectic, “The design itself is a little bit of Moroccan and Mediterranean and Spanish and Mexican with a little bit of mid-century modern and contemporary, all kind of smashed together with found light fixtures and found finishes on the floor and tiles on the wall.”

He also credits another Valley culinary icon and friend of many years, Chef Christoper Gross, with mentoring him through the process of opening a restaurant. The menu, however, is one of his own creation. It is based on dishes that he likes to make at home, meatballs that he perfected in college, and borrowing from recipes that his mom created (the Cesare salad that she’s been making for family since he was a kid) and drawing inspiration from meals with family and friends over the years.

“It’s a combination of all the things – just a lot of things that I love making and knew that I wanted to share with our guests.”

The restaurant focuses on sourcing small and local whenever it can, and from Italy when it cannot. And everything is cooked over live fire utilizing a woodfired pizza oven and grill. Rodgers recommends the Margarita pizza (try adding pepperoni, jalapeños or anchovies), the Mexican chorizo pizza or the mushroom pizza, featuring mushrooms from a local cultivator. He adds that everything is made fresh, including the bread, and never frozen. They also boast an innovative cocktail menu and an extensive wine list, with a focus on Italian wines.

From the beginning, the restaurant concept was connected to the rescue (thus the name) and 25 percent of all pizza sales goes directly towards providing shelter, care and love for rescued dogs on their journey to finding forever homes. The rescue even brings pups to the patio on certain nights to help boost adoptions and it has brought increased exposure for the work they do.

But at the end of the day, he wanted to create a space where guests to feel like they are being entertained by family.

“That’s what we know how to do,” said Rodgers. “We don’t know how to run a restaurant. We just know how to hang out at our house and serve our friends and family and make some good food.”

Pizza to the Rescue is located at 2601 E. Indian School Road. For more information, call 602-314-4832 or visit


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