Corner welcomes a slice of Crozet
Early this summer, the beloved restaurant and bar on Elliewood Avenue, The Backyard, closed its doors without an explanation. Ignoring a Facebook page filled with questions, Backyard’s management never publicly announced the future of the venue.
Trinity owners Ryan Rooney and Kevin Badke purchased the property as one of their ventures and have partnered with Crozet Pizza owners, Mike and Colleen Alexander, to open a branch of the 35-year-old pizza restaurant on the Corner. Because of the original pizza restaurant’s small floorplan, the Alexanders have been unable to match the 35-year-old restaurant’s ever-growing popularity with increased serving capacity.
“We can only do so many pizzas at Crozet Pizza,” Colleen Alexander said. “We have been looking for an additional space for the last couple of years so we could serve more customers. When the Backyard space became available, we knew that it was the right spot.”
Located about 12 miles west of Grounds, Crozet Pizza is a highly-regarded restaurant and beloved favorite of many students — so much so that visiting the establishment is on the list of “113 Things to Do Before you Graduate” issued to fourth-year students every year.
“Our dough is made by hand from our family recipe, our sauce is our own, and vegetables are freshly cut each day,” Colleen Alexander said. “We use high-quality cheese and meats. Frankly, [our pizza] is delicious.”
But with so many opportunities for delicious cuisine in Charlottesville proper, the Alexanders recognize their restaurant’s appeal doesn’t rest solely on making quality pizzas.
“It’s hip without trying to be hip. It’s funky and quirky but warm and comfortable at the same time,” Colleen Alexander said. “Customers enjoy being at Crozet Pizza.”
They also take a little bit of Crozet Pizza away when they leave. Customers started a trend of sending the restaurant pictures of themselves wearing Crozet Pizza t-shirts in different places all around the world. The Alexanders then chronicle their customers’ adventures by pinning these photographs to a world map.
“I think, like all of us, the students get a kick out of seeing their picture on the map,” Colleen Alexander said.
Crozet Pizza has received several awards and accolades throughout the years, including its spot on Food Network’s list of the 50 best pizzas in the country and its recognition as National Geographic’s “Best in World” pizza.
“We want to maintain the exact same taste and quality as the original Crozet Pizza,” Rooney said. “While the new location will be bigger and newer than the original, it will still have great pizza in a funky and inviting atmosphere.”
The aptly-named Backyard has a huge outdoor patio that has created a vibe students have flocked to in the past. But renovations have already started on the property.
“The building was a little rough, but it has so much character and potential,” Rooney said.
The Backyard’s conversion into a Crozet Pizza branch is just one of the many changes that have occurred on the Corner since last semester. Coupe de Ville’s, another restaurant and bar on Elliewood, changed hands last academic year; students’ perennial favorite fro-yo shop, Arch’s, recently became self-serve; and 14th Street saw the addition of a late night venue, Big Dogs.
Fourth-year College student Nicole Snyder works at a restaurant that neighbored The Backyard and has hired some of that establishment’s former bartenders.
“I’m sad because they had awesome food on the Corner,” she said of The Backyard’s recent closing. “It was food that you don’t generally find. It’s just sad.”
Crozet Pizza hopes to open by the middle or end of October. This, however, will not be Rooney and Badke’s last venture — they said they hope to purchase other venues in the future.