Dineomite: Crozet Pizza: Has it been topped? Are the saucy days over? Sliced down to size?
By Lucy Robbins
Once upon a time, you wouldn't even think about eating at Crozet Pizza unless you made a reservation before 3pm, at least if you wanted to eat before 10pm-- and that included take-out orders.
I've seen them turn away walk-ins at the dinner hour when only two tables were occupied, because all the rest allegedly were reserved. Certainly we've all asked, is this any way to run a business? But apparently it worked, at least when Crozet Pizza was virtually the only show in town.
I recently called Crozet Pizza on a Tuesday evening around 6pm, just to humor little Ralph, who craved a Crozet Pizza and whined that this was his last chance to eat one because his daddy was coming home the next day. (Ralph's daddy refuses to eat at Crozet Pizza for reasons that have nothing to do with the pizza itself, but that are too convoluted and embarrassing to detail.) So, naturally, when he's out of town, we make our reservations to eat at Crozet Pizza early, knowing it could be months before another such opportunity arises.
Imagine my surprise when the voice on the Crozet Pizza end said, "I can start a pizza for you right now." This totally threw me for a loop. "What about eating there?" I asked, sure that all the empty tables would be covered with "Reserved" signs. "No problem," replied the voice. "Come on in."
I was so amazed that I called Julie, who was also husbandless that night, to see if she and her children wanted to join us in this unexpected adventure-- being able to dine at Crozet Pizza without a reservation.
Now, I can't eat pizza with just anyone. Most people are usually pretty wimpy about what they'll eat on a pizza, and for some reason many Americans are horrified by the idea of anchovies. In my family, anchovy pizza was the only pizza we ate, and if you were considering marrying someone who wouldn't eat anchovy pizza, well, you might as well forget about that partner right now.
I knew I'd called the right person when I told Julie I was planning to order my usual anchovy, jalapeno, and fresh tomato pizza and she said "Fine." (After all, I've also eaten liver with Julie and don't know of anything she won't eat.)
I have to tell you, the anchovy, jalapeno, and fresh tomato pizza is the finest pizza experience I've ever had. Even my sometimes-picky daughter, Stella, loves this pizza. Stella can be infuriating in her eating habits, but she loves spicy foods even more than her mother does. Stella didn't think the jalapenos were hot enough, so she liberally sprinkled crushed red peppers all over her pizza.
Ralph and the Little Julies were not quite so adventurous, but they were happy with their pepperoni pizza. (Okay, Ralph is adopted.) The children crowded around the broad kitchen window to watch the owner make the pizzas until he shooed them back to our booth so the waitress could take our orders for drinks.
For some silly reason, we weren't drinking that night, but the beer offerings looked pretty good. It's not everyday you see Tsing Tao at a pizza place.
Crozet Pizza hunkers down in a ramshackle red building in the heart of downtown Crozet. Owner Bob Crum usually parks his car right in front. That's typical of his habit of not catering to his customers other than to make them a most excellent pizza. The funky atmosphere and the turn of the century artifacts on the walls are for real-- no plastic in this joint.
Only one other table was occupied, which led to wild speculation: Have new eating venues such as Ombra, Dairy Queen, and Jarman's Gap finally loosened Crozet Pizza's stranglehold on hungry Crozetians?
If it means you can get a good pizza on short notice in the wilds of western Albemarle County, then oh, happy competition! Maybe one of these days I'll try a pizza with eggplant or sun-dried tomatoes or snow peas. Yeah, right, as if I'd pass up an anchovy, fresh tomato, jalapeno pizza to experiment.
Dining at Crozet Pizza is not an inexpensive proposition. Our two medium pizzas and six small sodas came to around $41.
But oh, what pizza.