What makes a really great pizza? Is it the variety of toppings? Could it be the cheesy, melty goodness? What about having a solid crust to build upon?
When it comes to crafting the perfect pizza, there is no single answer. But one thing is for sure—it’s about making everything from scratch and having fun with it.
“To us, artisan means you are getting your hands dirty as the stewards at every step,” said Brewer Stouffer, founder and CEO of The Roman Candle. “We make everything fresh. We care about the ingredients and the process.”
That artisanal approach was one reason Stouffer entered the world of pizza.
“I started The Roman Candle because I felt in my heart that there was a better pizza to be made and no one was making the pizza I wanted to eat,” said Stouffer.
It takes a lot of heart, soul, sauce and dough to craft a perfect pie. That’s why pizza franchises like The Roman Candle and Your Pie threw their hats into the ring. They have a mission to bring a better, artisanal pizza with fresh ingredients to pizza lovers everywhere.
When it comes to crafting the perfect slice of artisanal pie, you can’t substitute great ingredients.
“We care so much about our ingredients from start to finish,” said Stouffer. “We have a rigorous two- to three-day process to make our dough. We also hand chop all vegetables. We bring in local ingredients. Our sausage is never frozen.”
Pizzerias like The Roman Candle and Your Pie prove that to make a great pie, it takes heart. That’s why they start with the best ingredients and utilize a hands-on approach to crafting the flavors and building their pizzas.
“We’re hand-stretching the Italian-style crust with white and wheat options,” said Drew French, founder and CEO of Your Pie. “We use fresh high-quality ingredients and all of our sauces and dressings are made in-house, too.”
“At Your Pie people get exactly what they want,” said French. “We were founded on being different in general, in every step of the way. We started out with a model of down-the-line pizza. That’s different and wasn’t done at the time. The reason for that was to give everyone exactly what they wanted.”
At Your Pie, customers have their choice of crafting the perfect down-the-line pizza for themselves from a wide variety of crusts, sauces and toppings cut and created by hand. In addition to making their own creation, Your Pie offers fans new Craft Series menus throughout the year, where they can experience new flavors and combinations created by Your Pie.
“We eat a lot of pizza,” said French when discussing how they create the new combinations. “Some of the ideas are customer driven—we listen to their wants and needs. Franchisees also give us ideas for different combinations. After that, it’s getting in the kitchen and cooking and trying unique things to find what’s delicious.”
When it comes to The Roman Candle, they focus on how to make it more delicious, more teachable and simpler.
“We want our recipes to be simple, but they’re not actually simple—they can be very complicated,” said Stouffer. “Many of our restaurants have many steps and trying to teach that is a challenge. And we found some recipes only senior staff members can make.”
The Roman Candle recently introduced wings to their menu. Currently, only one person in the system is allowed to make the wing sauces. That’s because at The Roman Candle, they focus on quality and serving their products the right way.
“We’re passionate about making sure or food is of the highest quality, so you have to be strict about who makes it,” said Stouffer.
When it comes to creating an artisan pizza, it’s about more than the ingredients and the process—passion plays a part in crafting the perfect slice.
“What I’m truly proud of is how much my team and my restaurant cares about the quality of food we serve,” said Stouffer. “We get in heated arguments about the best way to chop a tomato. We get into debates about how we make wings and sauces from scratch.”
Passion pays off when crafting an artisan pizza. At The Roman Candle, that zeal is translated into bringing their customers a great experience with every visit and every slice of pizza.
According to Stouffer, a perfect pizza is one that makes a lasting impression, and it’s one that makes a group truly enjoy the time they spend eating the pizza.
“What we're passionate about is changing the way people experience pizza,” said French. “One piece of that is how they can create their pizza experience and that surprises people who have never experienced Your Pie and fast casual pizza. “
By giving the customer endless options of pizza sauces, toppings, and dough to choose from, Your Pie was at the forefront of redefining what it means to make a pizza. It’s allowing fans to take control and be creative while using hand-tossed dough and house-made sauces that make Your Pie stand out from the rest in the field.
“We are passionate about the right combinations,” said Stouffer. “So passionate, we tend to roll out one or two specialty pizzas a year. That’s because the ones we make, people love, and we love them, too.”
That dedication has paid off. As of right now, specialty pizzas at The Roman Candle account for about 70 percent of sales.
As “curator of awesome combinations,” The Roman Candle takes pride in their specialty pizzas. With options like BBQ Chicken, Stouffer and his team work to capture the essence of an experience, such as a backyard barbecue, and translate that into a pizza.
And according to Brewer, that’s exactly what great artisan pizza does. It allows customers to enjoy the craftsmanship of pizza while being able to enjoy new and different combinations that you won’t find at every other restaurant.
Artisan pizza also allows fans to create their own moments when enjoying a slice.
When French thinks of his favorite pizza, he focuses on his mood and what fits the moment.
“My favorite pizza depends on my mood,” said French. “Sometimes I go for simple authentic Italian with fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil, maybe pepperoni for good measure. Or, sometimes I go more new age, with barbecue and hot sauce with jalapenos and pineapple. That’s what is cool about Your Pie. You may think you’re not in the mood for pizza and then you can create something new and different curated around whatever you’re craving in that moment. But, I’m always in the mood for pizza.”
For Stouffer, the perfect artisan pizza is one that is eaten slowly in good company.
“Everyone has a vision of a perfect pizza in their mind,” said Stouffer. “To be a perfect pizzeria you can’t cater to everyone’s needs. You have to hone your craft—instead, focus on perfecting the oven-bake, your dough and your access to fresh ingredients and your store culture.”