September 26, 2018
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We Love Pizza

View the full feature in the March/April 2015 issue of Evansville Living.

Why do we love pizza?
That’s an easy answer — but not a short one. It’s customizable, shareable, delectable, portable, and we can’t get enough of it, making Evansville a perfect place for us. Pizzerias cover this city and its surrounding areas, each with its own twist on a piece of pie.

People Behind the Pizza

Pizza makers explain their passion for their pies  By Jenny McNeece • Photos by Jerry Butts

Eric Weber
By The Slice Gourmet Pizzeria

The idea for By the Slice Gourmet Pizzeria, 2011 Lincoln Ave., near the University of Evansville, started 20 years ago as a graduate school project while owner Eric Weber was a student at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. He envisioned a pizzeria where customers could come in, choose a slice from an assortment of specialty pizzas, then sit a spell while it baked to bubbling, browned perfection.

“That's how I like it best,” says Weber. “We usually make 12 different kinds of pizza, some daily, but others vary on different days of the week. And we try new stuff all the time, too.

“Customers can come up to the counter, take a look at what we've got made for that day, pick what they want, and we put it back in the oven to finish it off.”

Weber says his pizzeria, which opened in 1994, has become a popular place for young professionals looking for a quick slice of pizza on their lunch hour or even groups of regulars who look forward to the ever-changing daily specials. Some of their most popular pies, he says, are a spinach and feta cheese pizza garnished with garlic, olive oil, and mozzarella, and another with creamy ranch dressing, red onion, mozzarella, and tomato.

Weber has created pizzas that meet the rules of popular fad diets, all because his goal, he says, is to give people what they want all while encouraging them to think outside the usual pizza box.

“We have a group of regular guys who always comes in on Tuesdays,” says Weber. “They're the kind of customers I like because they usually like to play around a little bit with what they choose.

“But I think the idea for a pizzeria like this works because there are a lot of times when you don't want a whole pizza,” he says. “You just want a snack, and we can give you that.”

For more information about By the Slice, call 812-402-8518.

Tom and Kathy Groves
Kitchen Sink Pizza of Evansville

People often ask Tom and Kathy Groves about the meaning behind their pizzeria's name, Kitchen Sink Pizza.

And the answer is just as one might expect.

“Well, it comes from the phrase 'everything but the kitchen sink' because that's exactly what we put on our pizza,” Tom Groves says with a laugh. “That is our specialty, and we try to keep those in stock at all times because people love them so much.”

Kitchen Sink's business model is different than most. The couple doesn't operate a store front business; they simply assemble the pizzas at 1815 John St. two days a week, and Tom Groves does daily deliveries.

The popular Kitchen Sink pizza is available most days. But those who want multiple pizzas — the minimum order is two — or other recipes must order ahead.

The pies then arrive frozen and ready to bake.

Tom Groves' family once owned Evansville's popular Pour House Restaurant, an establishment that originally opened in the 1970s as a bar on Mount Vernon Avenue. Groves tended bar while a student at Ball State University, and when he returned, his family opened the music club together.

But it was their entry into the craft of making specialty pizzas that catapulted them into the local restaurant business, and they operated successfully until 1986.

“I never thought another thing about making pizzas,” says Groves. “Then about five years ago, somebody mentioned something on Facebook about the pizzas we used to make. It got all kinds of hits and likes, so we started making them again for friends and family.

“From there, it just took off.”

Tom, a sales associate with Indoff, an office supply and furniture company based in St., Louis and Kathy, a fourth-grade teacher at Holy Rosary School, have enjoyed their return to the pizza-making business, but they have no employees and don't necessarily want any.

“It has worked really well for us,” says Groves. “We are as busy as we want to be, and we hope to continue doing this when we retire.”

Orders can be emailed directly to kitchensinkpizza@gmail.com or called into 812-305-4412. They also can be found on Facebook by searching Kitchen Sink Pizza of Evansville.

Brad Niemeier
Azzip Pizza

Brad Niemeier opened Azzip Pizza — that's pizza spelled backwards — in February of 2014. Fresh out of college and armed with $20,000 in prize money after winning Purdue University's Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition, he searched high and low to find the perfect spot to implement his plan of providing quick, made-to-order personal-size pizzas.

“I thought about doing it at Purdue, but I decided I wanted to bring my idea back to Evansville,” the hometown boy says. “I knew all the support and connections I had made in this community, and I eventually found the perfect spot on the West Side.”

Azzip Pizza, 5225 Pearl Drive, offers what Niemeier likes to call “fast, casual pizza.” The pizzas come in either 8- or 11-inch sizes, and customers pick their preferred toppings.

“They make it right there in front of you, and it bakes in just 2 minutes and 30 seconds,” he says proudly. “And all of them are made with fresh ingredients, fresh dough we make and roll out in-house everyday.”

The community he loved embraced him as well. Azzip has done well on the West Side, says Niemeier, who is partnered with local chef Blake Kollker, formerly of the Evansville Country Club. He recently opened a second location in Newburgh, Indiana, at 8680 High Point Drive.

Kollker has since helped Azzip to launch some of its most unique specialty pizzas, ones like the Westsider, which features Marx Barbecue sauce, cheese, pork, red onions, and crushed Grippos sprinkled on top, as well as the Mr. Potato Head, which boasts a ranch-based sauce, red-skinned potatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and chive sour cream.

“The response has been great,” says Niemeier. “We've got people who have come in every week since we opened. It's been phenomenal.”

For more information about Azzip Pizza, call 812-401-3572 or visit azzippizza.me.

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