Bennie Parr Jr. likes to greet every customer who drops into Bennie’s Pizza Pub, the newest place to get lunch or dinner in downtown Belleville.
“We try to get to know you,” he said. “We want you to feel like you’re family or friends.”
Parr and his staff have been busy dishing up pizza slices for customers who heard about the “soft” opening last week for the pizza and salad menu.
“It’s been really amazing,” Parr said. “The support from the community has been really awesome.”
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The pub, which is at 124 E. Main St. in the former Righteous Pig barbecue space, began serving drinks last month during Art on the Square festival.
Parr said he didn’t originally envision opening in stages, but he’s glad it worked out that way.
After the pizza and salad service gets established, Parr soon expects to expand with a “boozy brunch” on Sundays. He plans a “high energy breakfast” with a DJ, breakfast pizzas and a signature bloody Mary topped with a slice of pizza.
Parr and his staff have been busy concocting pizza recipes.
“Our featured pizza is called a Hawaiian Hog, and it has a little bit of everything,” he said.
It has barbecue sauce, pulled pork, bacon, Canadian bacon, jalapenos, onions and pineapple.
Another popular pizza is topped with chicken and a sauce formed by combining fontina cheese and Magners Irish pear cider.
You also can get the traditional styles, such as cheese, pepperoni and veggie.
Most customers order pizza by the slice, but you can also order whole pizzas.
Parr said the pizza slices are a quarter of a 16-inch pizza. Or, more colorfully, he describes it as “a slice the size of your face.”
Future toppings are in the development phase, and possibilities include mac and cheese, jalapeno poppers and pear bruschetta.
The new ovens cook pizzas in just over four minutes at about 550 degrees.
Parr said he wants to specialize in pizza and salads and doesn’t have plans to add “a thousand things” to the menu.
“We want to be great at what we do,” Parr said. “You’re getting premium food at a fast-food restaurant pace.”
Parr, along with friends and family, did a lot of the remodeling for the restaurant this spring.
“I basically locked myself in here for three months,” Parr said.
He “repurposed” all kinds of wood that had been in the Righteous Pig. The wall that divided the room was taken out to make way for an open kitchen. Customers order pizzas and salads at a counter and can sit at tables, a bar and benches that Parr and his team built. The bar has hooks for purses and phone charging stations. Bennie’s also has outdoor seating.
Parr grew up in Belleville, and he’s excited about investing in a downtown business.
He’s heard from customers who went to a movie at the Lincoln Theatre and then stopped in for pizza at Bennie’s. Others have gone down the block to the new Crafty Sugar Co. for dessert.
"The more businesses we have down here … it’s just going to help everybody,” Parr said. “The more people come, the more they realize the hidden secrets that are within some of these businesses. It’s going to make them want to come more often and talk about Belleville.”
Want to go Bennie’s Pizza Pub?
Where: 124 E. Main St. in downtown Belleville.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Info: Bennie’s Pizza Pub on Facebook or call 618-416-0019.