Not your typical pizza, Bottoms Up's pies satisfy with their thick crust and hearty toppings. 

Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone

must be doing something right because it's almost certainly Richmond's favorite pizzeria — but then Richmond isn't exactly brimming with serious pizza eateries. The building's architecture tells the story of a successful restaurant — with added decks and glassed-in rooms, this small, oddly shaped brick building boasts four different seating areas. On the night we visited, the "Florida Room" was packed and loud with pop music.

It's always been my hypothesis that the American obsession with pizza stems from a general dearth of freshly baked bread products. People who grow up thinking that yeast, flour and water reach their pinnacle in Wonder Bread, are captivated by piping-hot pizza arriving straight from the oven with its freshly baked crust. Certainly if pizza's your surrogate for fresh bread, then Bottoms Up has the pie for you.

This stuff has some of the most breadlike crust I've ever had on pizza. It's thick — more than an inch in some places — and airy, probably as a result of a lengthy final rise after shaping. Now, you may not like a thick crust, but the fact is Bottoms Up simply requires the extra structural support to engineer its signature pies, which are a kind of an exercise in excess — thick crusts, piled-on toppings and huge slices. And let me stop right here to disabuse you of any misconception that the "Signature Pizza" portions are anything remotely similar to what you might think of as a "slice." No, these things are more like quarter pies, and are a relative bargain at $5.25.

[image-1](Stacy Warner / before we get into the details, let me remind you that no matter how hard you look, you will not find a single food pyramid anywhere to support the proposition that pizza alone constitutes a well-rounded meal. Bottoms Up acknowledges this disappointing nutritional fact by dutifully offering a few soups and salads — and for those rare souls who actually shun pizza, some sandwiches. We tried the Med Salad ($5.95) which was large and came with Calamata olives, slow roasted tomatoes, tangy goat cheese, pepperoncini, croutons and "mixed" greens, which didn't seem terribly "mixed." We opted for the house basil vinaigrette, which was bright green and intense with fresh basil. The salad would have been good but for the unfortunate presence of grit. Not a lot, but then it only takes a little.

Now, the pizza. I've always been wary of seafood on cheese pizza, and a slice of the "Chesapeake" with its fresh crabmeat and Old Bay Seasoning did little to temper my suspicions. The crab got hopelessly lost in a sticky mass of melted cheese, and I couldn't taste even a hint of the Old Bay — which, in retrospect, may have been a blessing. The Karen Combo was much better. Fresh spinach and creamy ricotta dotted with Italian sausage made for a very appealing slice of pizza. But the big surprise for me came in the form of a barbecued chicken pizza which was surprisingly good. A thick layer of pulled chicken barbecue was topped with onions and cheddar cheese — almost like an open-faced barbecue and cheese sandwich on fresh bread.

[image-2](Stacy Warner / these heavy, thick-crusted signature pizzas seem a bit overwhelming, try the "Napolitan"-style personal pizza which boasts a "thin" crust — at least by Bottoms Up's standards. From this category, we sampled the "Goat in the Garden" ($7.75) — topped with fresh spinach, Roma tomatoes, goat cheese and roasted garlic. This is a pizza that comes a lot closer to what I personally look for in pizza: a medium crust, with smaller amounts of well-conceived toppings — roasted garlic and goat cheese being high on my list of favorites. I'll probably come back for one of these some day.

But when I do, I'll be skipping the dessert course. If you've ever had those generic frozen pies that restaurants order by the box and that have names like Oreo cluster or caramel crunch, then you know exactly what the dessert selection at Bottoms Up is all about. If you've got room for dessert after your pizza, eat more pizza.

Someone once suggested I could learn to appreciate opera by listening to it as if it were the product of instruments rather than of voices. It helped. In the same vein, if I think of the signature pies at Bottoms Up as something other than pizza, I appreciate them much more. They may fall short of my particular pizza expectations, but they are excellent thick slabs of fresh-baked dough with tasty stuff on


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