A set of rules greets customers at the recently opened Arosto Pizza on Wards Road.
Hung next to the register, they start out pretty standard — a welcome and a plea to "help us help you" — but then branch out.
Staffers will be happy to take anything you don’t like off one of their pizzas, but they prefer that you do not substitute anything in its place.
"If you feel uneasy about #2," it reads, "build your own and one-up the chef."
The cheekiness continues with numbers 4 and 5: "We do not to ½ pizzas, we feel nothing was every accomplished doing anything ½way," and "We cook in an oven that reaches 800 degrees. Some charring (which adds flavor and texture) may occur. Your pizza is not burnt, it has been kissed by the flame … consider yourself lucky."
Arosto — a variation of "Arrosto," which means "fire-roasted" in Italian — is part of a breed of restaurants billed as "fast casual" (think Five Guys, Panera Bread and Chipotle, which is actually a few doors down from Arosto in the University Square Shopping Center).
It comes from the same management company as Waterstone Pizza and Shoemaker’s in Lynchburg, as well as a number of similar fast casual spots, like Q Barbecue in Richmond.
Including pizza in the fast casual model "just made sense to us," says General Manager Roy Badgley.
"People perceive pizza as taking a long time. With a Wood Stone oven [the brand name], we’re able to cook these pizzas in four to five minutes. It takes longer for us to assemble the pizza than it does to make it."
Badgley says they use the Waterstone dough and sauce recipes at Arosto, and there are even a few similar specialty pizzas.
Arosto’s Wild Mushroom is topped with pesto, shiitake, cremini and Portobello mushrooms, goat cheese, fresh thyme, mozzarella and roasted red peppers (Waterstone’s Wild Mushroom uses sundried tomatoes instead of the peppers).
Other choices include the Julianne, which is topped with romano sauce, spinach, pesto, chicken, roma tomatoes, mozzarella and feta; the salad-like CBCR, romano sauce, chicken, bacon, cheddar and tomatoes topped with lettuce and ranch dressing; and the White pizza, romano sauce, prosciutto, pine nuts and gorgonzola, mozzarella and fontina cheeses.
They also serve up BBQ chicken, Greek, Sicilian and supreme pizzas, as well as sandwiches, salads and one mouthwatering dessert: Tiramisu.
Prices range from $6.95 for a classic cheese, Margherita or pepperoni pizza, to $7.95 for the specialty or build-your-own pie.
"We suggest three toppings, so the flavor of the items comes out," Badgley says. "We want to keep it simple."