When it comes to pizza, Hall County has its fair share of options. And lucky for you, there’s one spot that’s adding a new location to fill all of your pizza needs.
Old Towne Pizza has been open in Murrayville since the beginning of the year, and it’s already adding a second location a little further south down Thompson Bridge Road where a Papa John’s Pizza recently moved out.
“We got lucky,” Chris Ridley said as he stood beside the mammoth pizza conveyor oven inside the shop. “The landlord over at the Murrayville location is also the landlord here, so whenever Papa John's told him they were going to move, he saw that we were doing well over there and let us know this spot was available.”
Ridley started Old Towne Pizza about eight years ago in Dawsonville, but when the lease was up at that spot, he decided he wanted to move to a new location. In the meantime, Ridley’s friend, Ryan Milford, told him he wanted to open a pizza place of his own.
“I've known Ryan since high school and we've worked together at other pizza places,” Ridley said. “He wanted to get into it … so I told him I'd help him and mentor him.”
Piping hot pepperoni pizzaA pepperoni pizza rides through the oven on a conveyor belt at Old Towne Pizza's new location on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville Thursday, Oct. 3. The pizza shop has another location in Murrayville.
So instead of Ridley opening up his own new shop, he helped Milford open Old Towne Pizza — sort of like a franchise — in Murrayville.
A friend they both had in common, Nathan McPherson, came on board to help, too, and now, they are all partners in the business.
Together, they opened the new location at 2224 Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville.
“Collectively between us, there's like 100 years of food service,” Ridley said, laughing.
His first job was at Caruso’s Italian Restaurant in Dahlonega. He went on to work at other pizza kitchens and the same can be said for McPherson and Milford. Over time, they’ve all learned what works and what doesn’t in the food industry, so they’ve been able to combine that experience to turn out a product they’re proud of.
“Out of these 15 years I've worked in pizza, I can take everything and really use what I think works best,” Ridley said. “I really thought I could make the best pizza.”
Ridley admits he didn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to pizza, but he said the most important part to their pies are the fresh ingredients.
And there’s something about the small, hole-in-the-wall operation that makes the pizza special. Maybe it’s in the sauce, maybe it’s in the cheese or maybe it’s in the oil that drips off each slice. Whatever it is, Old Towne Pizza — which came way before Old Town Road — is doing something right.
“It took us about two months to be at full capacity (in Murrayville),” McPherson said. “Opening a restaurant, your first $1,000 day is a milestone and that happened our second Friday.”
Each and every day, they’re dicing and chopping the vegetables that top their pizzas. Nothing is frozen.
“Once you freeze vegetables, it takes a lot of the flavor out of it,” Ridley said. “So it ends up being more of a texture and not a flavor. So we're cutting onions every day, we're cutting green peppers every day.”
They’re making their pizza dough every day, too. A simple recipe of flour, water, yeast and a couple other ingredients gives it a taste and texture you won’t find in a frozen product.
It has a nice chew with a little bit of crunch on the bottom from the cornmeal used to keep the dough from sticking during the stretching process.
And you actually taste the yeast in the dough. You can tell after just one bite that it was given time to rise and hasn’t been sitting in the freezer for months.
“Our dough, we use it within about 48 hours,” Ridley said. “You're never eating dough that was made before yesterday.”
The same thing goes for their sauce. They get fresh tomatoes shipped in, add some olive oil and spices and that’s it.
“People are surprised at the taste,” Ridley said. “It's not like we're doing anything special … we're just using normal, but fresh ingredients.”
But that philosophy comes at a price. It’s a price Ridley, McPherson and Milford are happy to pay, though.
“We're not going to use cheap crap,” Ridley said. “I can go ahead and tell you we could save a lot of money on sauce and a lot of money on cheese, too.”
That price isn’t passed onto the customer. You can get a 12-inch cheese pizza for $7.99 or a 16-inch for $9.99. Add $2 for one topping or get up to four toppings for $2 more. Specialty pizzas like The Calvin with pepperoni, ham, sausage, beef, bacon and extra cheese or The Floy with tomatoes, spinach, banana peppers, onions, green peppers, black and green olives, mushrooms and extra cheese will cost you $12.99 for a 12-inch or $15.99 for a 16-inch.
“I don't eat veggie pizzas because I don't like half the stuff that’s on them,” McPherson said, laughing. “But it's one of my favorite things to make because it has more toppings than any of our other pizzas.”
So, the next time you’re looking for carryout or delivery pizza and you’re bombarded with options in town, don’t pass by Old Towne Pizza. The owners know what they’re doing and are using fresh ingredients to make things happen.
“Whenever I started this, like I said, I could throw a rock and hit a pizza place,” Ridley said. “The market is saturated with pizza places, but that's where all these years and the background from us benefits us.”