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2024 Jan

Smokin' Hot Pizza + Porky Que

Convenient spot serves crazy-good pizza and more!

Have you got two dollars left?

As the holiday spending frenzy fades into the austerity of the New Year, some epicures might feel a bit stretched. But there are many options for spending that $2. No longer will it buy a bottle of Two Buck Chuck over at Trader Joe’s, but it will buy you a Slurpee at 7-Eleven, and, if you can scrape together an additional 19 cents from between the couch cushions, some hash browns at McDonald’s.

Here’s a better idea: Head over to The Pizza Box in Virginia Beach for a ginormous, New York-style, supersized slice of pizza served smoking hot—a triangle of stretchy, salty cheese atop a smear of tangy tomato sauce built on a thin-ish, golden brown crust with just the right amount of crunch.

We discovered The Pizza Box and this $2 wonder after a hectic pre-holiday turn through the T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods store at the corner of Virginia Beach Boulevard and Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach. It was just a short stroll across the parking lot to the tiny, 19-seat eatery. But inside it was a world away.

Amanda and Brian Blair Sr., a United States Army veteran, opened the joint in December 2021 after 13 years with Brothers Pizza. They wanted a smaller place where they, their son Brian Blair Jr., and bestie Jessie Jones could handle the work themselves.

And so they arrive daily to make the sauce and dough and shred the barbecue that Brian Sr. smokes right out on the front porch amid a scattering of picnic tables. When you step through the front door, more likely than not you’ll be greeted by an owner.

Owner Amanda Blair noted that “we’re really an American-style pizza restaurant, not New York or Italian.”

The menu sports grilled cheese, wings, calzone and stromboli, smash burgers, and salads—and of course, pizzas, ranging in style from the traditional “Box Deluxe,” topped with pepperoni, sausage, beef, ham, onions, peppers and olives, to the best-selling “Blanco Deluxe.”

The very next day, on our second visit, we were charmed when the owner remembered us, right down to what we ordered and where we sat.

This time, we went for the Blanco Deluxe and were glad we did. Owner Amanda Blair set it on the pedestal on our table. It was so smoking hot that we had to wait to taste it, not an easy task.

The toasted crust came topped with a creamy, dreamy union of ricotta, garlic-parmesan blend, and olive oil crowned with discs of tomato, fresh mushrooms, and whole, fresh spinach leaves. It’s an unusual departure from traditional pizza, but oh-so-memorable.

We also tried one of the “Box Grilled Cheese” sandwiches ($9.99) and selected ham and tomato from among the dozen additions offered ($1-$2 each). This is a big sandwich, enough to share, served hot and perfectly grilled. The ample American-provolone-mozzarella blend of cheeses elevates it above the ordinary. Like the pizza, the crunch factor was perfect, and the flavor honored the restaurant’s commitment to using premium ingredients.

Now about that smoker out front. A few years back, while noshing my way across the Commonwealth for my “Food Lovers’ Guide to Virginia” guidebook, I advised readers to stop whenever they spotted one of these rigs on the side of the road. It signals a true pitmaster, and Mr. Blair has got the touch. The ‘que here is moist and suitably porky, served both Carolina and Memphis style in sandwiches ($9.99) or to go, by the pound (market price).

The restaurant also serves a smattering of specialty cocktails and beer. And in the unlikely case that you have room for dessert, cinnamon knots, cheesecakes, and even fried cookies may prove tempting.

Lorraine Eaton

Lorraine Eaton, former Staff Epicure at the Virginian-Pilot, is co-author of the “Food Lover’s Guide to Virginia,” and author of “Tidewater Table,” a local bestseller. She has won numerous state and national writing awards, and her work has been included in “Best Food Writing,” an annual anthology of the best American work in the genre. Lorraine has a daughter, Peyton, who is attending university. She resides in Virginia Beach.

Give Your Child a Healthy Start to the School Year

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