Rise! Barracks gets new pizza joint

dish-riseRise Pizzaworks General Manager Justin Billcheck and owners Andrew Vaughan and John Spagnolo.

Over the last month or so, Dish heard whispers about Rise Pizzaworks in Barracks Road, with several pizza lovers wondering if it was a chain kind of like Chipotle. Nope. The newest addition to Charlottesville's gourmet pizza scene, which opened Sunday, September 27 in the former Glassner Jewelers space in Barracks Road Shopping Center, is a one-of-a-kind, locally owned and operated.

But it may not be one of a kind for long.

"This is a proving ground," says co-owner John Spagnolo, who along with partner Andrew Vaughana longtime fixture on the Charlottesville restaurant scene– hopes to open other Rise stores in the future and is welcoming customer input as they further hone the concept.

"We'll be ready to dial it in when the time is right," says Spagnolo, who is also one of the owners of music and sporting event company Cerberus Productions. (His Cerberus partner, Justin Billcheck, is Rise's general manager.)

Of course, Spagnolo and Vaughn aren't the only restaurateurs in town with franchise-sized ambitions. Last year, Sticks Kabob Shop opened a Richmond location, a move that Bill Hamilton–the man behind Hamilton's and Gearharts Fine Chocolates–and partners Ty Austin, Chris Dubois, and Webb Brown (who Hamilton says are the real faces of Sticks) hoped would expand the "Sticks brand."

"From the beginning, Sticks was designed to be operationally slick," Hamilton told the Dish, meaning it could be easily reproduced and operated by someone else, somewhere else. "You have to be able to be run by someone else in a new market," he said. "You have to show this if you want a franchise to have legs."

You also need a little patience. Before making the Richmond move, Hamilton and his partners had run Sticks on Preston Avenue for seven years, and a second location at the Rivanna Ridge Shopping Center on Pantops for four.

Inside the narrow Rise space (that, incidentally, is itself subtly shaped like a piece of pizza) bright expanses of orange and yellow paint are set off by an aluminum wall on the right and sheets of concrete board on the left. Furniture is minimalist, as are the logo and menu design.

To achieve what Spagnolo calls "contemporary clean lines with a light industrial feel," the duo turned to Alloy Workshop, a local firm that's a one-stop-shop for architecture, construction and graphic design.

"That was the best decision we ever made," says Spagnolo, pointing out how the architecture of the space is designed not only to create visual and physical flow for customers but also to showcase the rear serving counter and menu– particularly at night, when the front of the store is darker and the rear area is illuminated.

If the space is minimalist, the menu is anything but, with 45 pizza and salad toppings ranging from standards like pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers to more unique– think raisins, bleu cheese, and sunflower seeds. Toppings aren't the only choice: pizzas can be made with six different sauces and seven cheeses, while crust options include regular, wheat, or gluten free.

That last crust choice, says Spagnolo, may be unique in the pizza world but is aimed at a growing population who, out of medical necessity or preference, have minimized or eliminated gluten in their diets.

"We set out to let customers have a lot of flexibility," Spagnolo explains. "Our motto is 'Perfect pizza on the Rise.' It's your pizza."