One of Marathon’s flagship pizza restaurants has reopened its doors after a short hiatus. And although its beloved owners Rigoberto and Raisa Gonzalez will no longer greet their loyal customers, their children Ricardo and Raisa Carolina pledge that “nothing has changed.”

Rigoberto and Raisa were a staple of the community since 2001, when the couple elected to relocate to Marathon to be closer to their first granddaughter Oriana. Along with Ricardo, they purchased Upper Crust Pizza in 2001. 

Continuing with the recipes of the previous owner, Ricardo began managing the kitchen, maintaining and tweaking existing recipes while ensuring quality in the homemade doughs. Rigoberto oversaw the operation using his years of work experience, and Raisa focused on the guest experience in the front of house area.

“My dad was a quality control engineer for pretty much all of his life, so to him, quality ingredients and the quality of the product that we serve was extremely important,” said Raisa Carolina, adding that the restaurant’s presentation was given an equal amount of care. “Cleanliness was special for him and my mom.”

“Just little things, like not letting the light bulbs burn out outside,” added Ricardo. “They seem to be very trivial things, but it’s very important.”

Ricardo, left, and Raisa Carolina Gonzalez are proud to carry on their parents’ work with Upper Crust Pizza. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

When Rigoberto and Raisa passed away a mere four minutes apart after battles with COVID-19 in August 2021, Ricardo and Raisa Carolina understandably took some time away from the business. “They left a big gap, and we’re pretty heartbroken,” said Raisa Carolina. “But my dad would have said, ‘You have to keep going,’ and my mom would have said, ‘You have it in you, and you’re gonna do it right.’”

The pair are carrying their parents’ traditions forward as Upper Crust reopens, keeping the recipes and menu offerings the same while looking to fill the gaps left by Rigoberto and Raisa’s passing. “My mom was the main person who did all the desserts in the restaurant, so it’s going to be hard to fill the gap, but we’re trying,” said Ricardo. “We have the recipes.”

Both have tried their hand at some of the restaurant’s most popular or proprietary treats, including banana torts and coconut cheesecake. And while the pair have some ideas for new menu additions in the future, for now they’re sticking to what they know. “Just simple things, because our menu is a menu that works,” said Ricardo. “I’m still here in the kitchen as a watchdog. Nothing has changed.”

“It’s exactly the same quality,” added Raisa Carolina. “Those looking to have a homemade meal, that’s what they’re going to get here.”

Appetizers like the “Wings of Fire” will continue to be an Upper Crust staple. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

According to the Gonzalezes, the support they’ve received from their staff and other Marathon locals in a time of hardship has been unparalleled. “We’ve had an outrageous amount of people come and give us bear hugs and praise how wonderful the food is,” said Raisa Carolina. 

They are also quick to credit their staff. “We have the same local employees that we had before, along with a few new additions,” said Raisa Carolina. “The old crew stayed with us through thick and thin during the closure, and we’re very grateful for them,” added Ricardo.

And while Upper Crust is now back in full swing, Ricardo and Raisa have made a clear pledge to continue the principles and standards set so clearly by their parents.

“That’s basically why we decided to reopen,” said Ricardo. “To keep the memory going.”

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.