BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Pizza keeps Tony Fronk awake at night.
“I’m making pizza in my dreams,” admits Tony, who along with his wife Marcy is preparing to open The Crust Pizzeria in downtown Whitehouse by the end of the month.
“He moves 1,000 people through the Inn on Thanksgiving, so why should he be concerned about this?” said Marcy, referring to Tony’s long tenure at The Whitehouse Inn.
Looking out the corner window of The Crust, Tony explained that he began working at The Whitehouse Inn in 1995 and purchased it from his father in 2007. The crew there is solid, which makes this latest venture – a dream of Marcy’s – come at the right time.
“We always talked about a second restaurant, but more of a deli, soup and salad place,” Marcy said. When the former Village Pizza space opened up, building owner Chuck Plymale called and Marcy envisioned an urban-style restaurant and bar.
Since last fall, the couple has put in a new floor, painted the brick wall, installed siding, pushed the kitchen back, added a bar and created seating for 50. Over the past month, the Fronks have tested out recipes on family, friends and even Whitehouse Inn customers, who got to vote on whether Marcy or Tony had the best lasagna recipe. A pizza-building party gave Tony insight on the namesake crust.
“We’re perfecting the crust,” Tony said. “It will be brushed with a secret ingredient.”
The crust on most of the 14 specialty pizzas will be a happy medium between thick and thin except for the 4-inch by 27-inch Detroit-style deep-dish pizza. The pizza menu includes a Nashville hot, which will feature chicken, homemade blue cheese dressing, hot sauce, pickles and cheese. The Whitehouse Inn pizza will start with a roasted red pepper pesto base plus a thin layer of mashed potatoes, prime rib, French onions and cheese, topped off with a drizzle of gravy.
All pizzas start out with handmade dough and sauces, locally sourced tomatoes and – eventually – homegrown herbs. The pizzas will come on long boards, in squares and in cupcakes. The menu will also include the winning lasagna, meatballs, appetizers, soups and salads. On the weekends, the restaurant will offer a breakfast pizza with sausage gravy, hash browns, eggs and cheese.
“We wanted to create something different, like you would find in Chicago or Cleveland,” said Tony. “We understand there are other pizza places in town, and we don’t want to hurt their pickup business.”
Instead, the Fronks expect The Crust to be more of a gathering space for lunch or dinner, as a liquor license allows them to sell beer and wine.
“We’ll have an extensive wine list and wine by the bottle,” said Marcy. “On the weekends, we’ll have fresh juice for mimosas and a bloody Mary bar.”
Open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Tony sees The Crust as an opportunity to serve a growing Whitehouse community, especially during the lunch hour. Pizza cupcakes and other menu items will be perfect to go back to the office or to eat in, he believes.
“For us, this is a big vision coming to light,” Marcy said.
Both marvel at the number of homes being built in the area, as well as the increase in traffic as people discover all there is to do in Whitehouse: biking along the Wabash Cannonball Trail; playing pickleball in the park; kayaking, fishing and walking around the quarry; playing sports at Blue Creek Recreation Area and exploring the nearby Oak Openings.
“I love how Whitehouse is growing, and there’s a lot to do and see out here,” Tony said. “We get to be a part of revitalizing the downtown.”