The rumblings of construction in and around Crozet Pizza have been piquing locals’ curiosity over the past few months, and owner Mike Alexander is finally ready to unveil the newly expanded space and offerings on tap at his signature restaurant. While the main dining room’s menu will still feature the pizza, salads, and burgers beloved by Crozetians, a new space called the Pourhouse will open on the west end for overflow crowds and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and a larger kitchen area will power the increased capacity. Oh, and you’ll have to enter through a different door.
“The building is over 200 years old,” said Alexander, “and it used to be like our version of today’s Southern States, where they kept seed, fertilizers, and everything for all the orchards around here. So, when [his wife] Colleen’s dad, Bob Crum, converted a piece of the building into Crozet Pizza, that building wasn’t designed to be a commercial space. [After taking over in 2002] we and have been making improvements over the years and expanding the dining area, but the kitchen has never expanded.”
During the pandemic, the restaurant’s inside service shut down for a year and a half, and the interior essentially became a work zone dedicated to takeout. Meanwhile, Alexander began plans to add on, originally envisioning a coffee/smoothie/acai bowl kind of vibe for the area where the bookstore used to be.
“Colleen and I decided it just didn’t connect with what we’re doing with Crozet Pizza, so we ‘put it in park.’ We changed the whole concept and design and we built it to where the room was basically complete, but I was having nightmares that we were adding the capacity for 75 more guests when our kitchen is already in overdrive,” he said. That realization inspired the decision to convert the front entrance room into more kitchen space.
“So, the front door where everybody has been coming in for 40 years is going to be to-go only,” said Alexander, “and the dine-in entrance is going to be the next door down. There will be a new host stand there, and you can go into the new lounge area, called the Pourhouse, if you’re waiting for a table. In the kitchen, the way we’re setting everything up will be more efficient—where before if we ran out of something we’d have to run halfway across the building to reload, but now we’ve got everything we need in one area, and we have an additional prep area as well.”
Alexander said it’s been tough to try to finish the renovations while still in operation, and the restaurant has had to close periodically to get all the pieces in place, but it’s coming together now. Once he sees how the flow is working, he hopes the brunch menu will be available for weekend guests by late November, thanks to an auxiliary kitchen over in the expanded end. The Pourhouse will have both a standing and seated bar area with an additional 60- to 75-person capacity in total, and will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to start. “That space can also be used for private parties. It’s going to be for multipurpose use,” he said.
“I’m sure the community has been wondering what’s going on [at Crozet Pizza] and I think they’ve been frustrated with us being closed on certain days when we’re supposed to be open,” said Alexander. “I’m sorry for that, but I hope once they see what we’re doing they’ll be a little bit forgiving. We’re excited now because we’re almost there—the hard part’s over and it’s going to be great.”