Crozet comes to the Corner
Hybrid restaurant-bar Crozet Pizza hopes to add flavor to Corner atmosphere
The legendary Crozet Pizza has found a new home at the Buddhist Biker Bar on Elliewood Avenue, taking the place of outdoor restaurant and bar The Backyard. The brainchild of Bob and Karen Crum — who moved to Crozet, Va., about 20 minutes west of Charlottesville, in the 1970s — Crozet Pizza aims to expand its signature pies to the college-age market.
Appalled by the lack of good pizza in the region, the Crums began their joint venture soon after they moved to the area, with Mr. Crum working on the sauce while his wife perfected the dough. In 1977, Crozet Pizza was officially born when the couple opened shop in an abandoned warehouse in Crozet.
“When everyone else was at home sleeping, Bob and Karen Crum were making dough and further perfecting their pizzas,” current co-owner Mike Alexander said.
Ultimately, Crozet Pizza has earned its spot as a top-notch eatery within the local community. Their pizza has been recognized by USA Today and the Food Network, and National Geographic declared it “the best [pizza] in the world.” Visiting the restaurant is even on the official list of activities University students should complete before they graduate — though students aren’t the only ones appreciative of the restaurant’s savory sauce.
“Actress Jessica Lange and actor Sam Shepard [came] once,” Alexander said. “When the line was out the door and the wait was over two hours, they ordered a pizza and ate [it] on the hood of their car.”
Muhammad Ali, Steve Carell and several Virginia governors have also visited the spot.
In 2004, despite its growing success, Bob and Karen Crum retired, leaving the business to their son-in-law Alexander and daughter Colleen. The latest incarnation of Crozet Pizza reflects a joint venture between this second generation of owners and bar owners Ryan Rooney and Kevin Badke, who also own Corner bars Trinity and Coupe DeVille’s.
It was Rooney and Badke who decided to rename The Backyard locale “The Buddhist Biker Bar,” the spot’s original name.
But the name isn’t the only thing that’s changed. The once well-worn atmosphere of The Backyard has undergone a massive overhaul.
Under the guidance of Chicago’s master craftsman Sean “Hittie” Poseli, the original bar has been moved and completely rebuilt. New booths have been installed and all the woodwork has been renovated. Vintage Crozet Pizza posters, southern rock band posters and old whiskey crates characterize the restaurant’s décor.
But it’s the food and drink that make Crozet Pizza at Buddhist Biker Bar really stand out. With pizza dough and sauce made fresh daily, the Crum’s original recipe lives on. The defining characteristic of the pizza, however, is the crust. Not too thin, not too thick and never greasy, the crust is complemented with just the right amount of char. Every bite is met with the perfect crunch.
With pizzas like the Hero, a spice lover’s dream, combining Italian sausage and fresh hot cherry peppers, and the Veggie, which boasts fresh spinach, Roma tomatoes and garlic, Charlottesville foodies are sure to take notice.
And though Crozet Pizza pays tribute to the time-honored tradition of pizza and beer with a selection of beers on tap, their craft cocktails are where their bar really shines. This month’s signature cocktail is the Fresh Zen, which combines muddled basil with sugar, a house-made sour mix and cherry rum, topped with sprite and soda water.
“The basil is actually from a local farmer, if we run out, we have a garden on the back patio,” bar manager Matter Foster said.