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Pizza is personal and we’re taking all these failures very personally
Talk to many folks and it’s one of the most important non-essential decisions in their life.
What’s my pizza place?
That sounds like one of the most absurd statements ever uddered, right? Well, think about it. Pizza is the one food that usually bridges the dietary discussion. Simply put, fat people eat too much of it and my-body-is-my-temple folks usually obsess about it as their reward food.
I have lived in places where rents were literally elevated because the property was within the delivery area of a top-notch pizzeria. Yes, this is a thing. My landlord in New York City made no bones about this being a thing and defended the policy to me for 20 minutes when I questioned him.
A great pizza place is usually recession proof, because no matter what financial difficulties folks have, they can always make room in the budget for a pizza night. Yet, here in Bluffton, the depth of options has risen and fallen with the economy.
As opportunity was abundant and development dollars were free flowing, a bunch of great options bubbled up around the area’s mainstays.
Then, as the economy went south, shockingly, so did our options.
I don’t mean to be stepping on Best of Bluffton territory, but it really struck me to see Napoli close a few weeks back on S.C. 46. So much money and time was put into renovating this building after its former tenant, Badabings, was booted in favor of an owner-operated Italian eatery.
An outside seating area had just been finished. Many I talked to said that Napoli felt too high end for Bluffton, that service was spotty and that the core product, the pizza, was not up to our discerning 29910 standards.
Yet, those are all issues that could be worked out. Instead, Napoli just went poof, gone.
They’re not the first. Monster Pizza was one of my first pizza passions in town. When the initial owners sold and the McCarthy family took over, I hoped this meant that the place had a true long-term future in Bluffton. The pizza was good, the concept was unique, the people were friendly. The location was a little out of the way on Burnt Church Road in an older plaza, but it just felt all felt right.
The outside area around the restaurant was used for family-friendly events, for cornhole tournaments and for watching big sports events projected larger than life on the side of the building.
Then, Monster tried to expand. Some say it was too much, too soon and the result was not only did the Sun City location go away quick, but so did the Burnt Church location.
Upper Crust Pizza was a fixture in Moss Creek, then they jumped ship and took on the former Monster location in Sun City.
Honestly, I can’t keep up with all the movement here, and I’m one of the folks who keeps track of such things.
I loved Jersey Joe’s, first when it was on S.C. 170 (though that was a bit far of a ride to be a regular thing) and then when they were in Buckwalter Place. They had great pizza and they were consistent. It seemed like they had a good regular business, but it wasn’t enough.
Fiddlehead’s, which went into the former Monster spot on Burnt Church, had incredible high-end taste. Another place that went away far too soon.
And yes, I loved Badabing’s. The staff treated my kids like they were princes and they did a stellar job on such a wide array of Italian dishes, it was just always a good night out. And their carryout was consistently strong.
So, I won’t lie, I rarely went to Napoli. Wanted to try it but I was bitter over Badabing’s going away. It’s passing still effected me more than I thought it went, because it’s yet another option gone.
Romeo’s in Kittie’s Crossing was a quiet gem. Small joint, not great for eating in, but the tomato sauce and their baked ziti were heavenly. Gone.
Paulie’s at Berkeley Place left us for the island. The list goes on and on and on, and I know I’m missing plenty.
The margins are small in the pizza business. Building regular clientele is so key. Then there’s the chains. The locals could survive when it was just Domino’s and Papa John’s in town.
Then Pizza Hut opened next to The Pig. That took a slice of the pie.
Little Caesar’s wrecked the local game with its $5 hot and ready. Hey, I love me some Italian Cheese Bread, but I’d always rather go for the local option.
For now, Giussepi’s is seemingly holding its own in its parking-is-awful location at the entrance to Kittie’s Crossing. Their Wednesday madness specials always keep them in our budget rotation.
New York City Pizza lives on next to Kroger. A few of my friends obsess about this place. I don’t get it, but I truly hope they have enough diehards to take a stronghold here in addition to their island location.
Moon Mi Pizza is my current local go-to spot. Great location, fresh ingredients, homey feel. The pizza at Station 300 is the sneaky good option. If you haven’t tried it, you should. And Vineyard 55’s pizzas are a delightful indulgence.
Mellow Mushroom has the formula right, making it work in a very odd spot in the Walgreen’s plaza. A chain that doesn’t feel corporate.
Where does all this history lead us?
If the economy is truly rebounding, we can only hope that means we’ll draw some more pizza pioneers to the area.
Uncle Maddio’s has opened in Savannah. It’s so good and like Mellow, does the chain without feeling like it. Maybe they come here.
I know it’s a volume game to make any money there. And I don’t have the demos and the financials. All I know is what I hear.
And what I hear is we’re dying for more options. They say high tide raises all ships.
Hopefully, it raises some pizza dough as well.
Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Send him comments and story ideas at email@example.com.