“It’s cooked upside down and it’s like a pizza pot pie!”
Kara Honebrink didn’t lack for foodie enthusiasm one recent Friday as the sun slanted through the windows fronting on Shoreline Drive. It had been exactly one month since the “Coming Soon” of a red, white and green banner had been turned inward, its letters upside down, and giving a good guess as to what the other side advertises: “Now Open.”
Honebrink opened Lulu’s Pizzeria at 3420 Shoreline Dr. on May 12 and as she tells it, “the wheels have come off” in that first month.
Along for the ride is longtime business partner Jason Fischer. The two opened Lulu’s with an expectation of 50 pizzas a night, but that estimate, which Fischer said he based on numbers given him by the owner of the former D’vinci’s, quickly burned up—reality has been closer to 110 pizzas a night.
Or, that first Saturday, more like 200 in one hour.
“We had about $2,000 worth of orders between 5 and 6 o’clock. Try and picture that working out of this space and the challenges we had in having enough product for that,” said Fischer. Lulu’s closed early for the night, a willing victim to its own success.
Both Honebrink and Fischer have worked in business ops and the food industry before, Honebrink doing marketing for a steakhouse and having family ties to a dairy farm in northern Minnesota; Fischer was opening Dairy Queens straight out of college and has been helping Honebrink with her medical supply business for a few years now.
Shared, too, is a love for food: how it’s made, how it’s sourced, how it tastes.
“This has been a test kitchen for several years,” said Fischer, who described how he and Honebrink had kneaded the recipes for several years before opening Lulu’s.
In honing their craft for all that time, the two finally felt they were on the brink of something good and of all those pizza pies turned out over the years, some things emerged as non-negotiable for Lulu’s: the mixture of heavy whipping cream, ricotta and mascarpone dolloped on top of the New York style pizza; an oregano and pecorino blend; and a garlic olive oil brushed onto the crust.
“We were in love with these three things. We said, ‘We’ve got to get this out, we’ve got to have people try this,’” said Honebrink. “It’s unique but not too unique.”
And that “pizza pot pie”? That’s “The Bomb” you’ll find on the menu, a “burrata detonator” hidden inside. Burrata is a soft cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
Challenging for both Honebrink and Fischer has been tempering their pizza verve with day-to-day operational logistics. “The pizza factory versus the pizza passion. You have to find a balance there,” said Fischer.
But opening the restaurant during a public health scare that has forced the closure of so many in the industry wasn’t so much of a challenge: with Lulu’s open only to carry-out—a constraint of space, not of pandemic—there were no added roadblocks to the business model itself.
Instead, the uncertainty lay in how Lulu’s would be received.
“I really was not sure how receptive it may or may not be, people wanting to spend money. I think one of my concerns was that there was kind of this initial push to really support small business, but we were like, ‘Okay, are we in that or not?’” said Honebrink, who described Lulu’s as a “hybrid”: both a small local business and a brand new restaurant edging its way into a market vacated by others.
Honebrink is candid in saying there are still things she’s adjusting and that the first month has given her a feel for what people are wanting.
“We’ve had to take some things on the chin and there’s been some brutal honesty out there and some constructiveness that we’ve had to take back to the drawing board and reevaluate—what can we learn from this and what can we tweak?”
Honebrink and Fischer said they’re looking to expand this week to offer lunchtime hours in addition to their dinner hours. They’ve also taken on a professional pastry chef in the past two weeks and have their set sights on the vacancy directly behind them where they say they’d like to have a dine-in lunch counter and the capacity to offer pastas in the near future.
Lulu’s Pizzeria is located at 3420 Shoreline Dr., Navarre
For updated hours, visit Lulu’s Facebook page or pizzerialulu.com