Benji’s Pizza and Grill opens in BayTowne

3 Feb

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I believe that a town can’t have too many pizza places. There are so many different ways to make a pizza — lots of sauce, little sauce, thick crust, thin crust, crunchy crust, flat  pepperoni, chunk pepperoni… and then there’s WINGS! It’s nice to have a variety to choose from.

That’s why I was pleased to find out that a new pizza place opened up just a few weeks ago in the strip plaza in BayTowne by the new Walmart.  It’s called Benji’s Pizza and Grill, and it didn’t take me long to check it out.

I met one of the owners, Jim Benjamin, who told me he’s been in the restaurant business since he was a teenager, in roles from kitchen help to cook, and has run several of his own places.  Benji’s is his latest endeavor, and he has high hopes for it.

Benji’s is located in the former Jack & Jill’s daycare in the small plaza located on the north side of Brandt Point Drive (which is basically the main Walmart access road.) When Benjamin and his business partner were looking around for just the right place for the new restaurant, they really liked the location. After all, thousands of people drive by there every day to go to Walmart and the condo development. But transforming it from a child care center into a restaurant would be a lot of work.

“When we walked in, I could see the potential for building a nice open kitchen, which is what I like to do,” Benjamin said.  So they got to work and spent a full six months renovating the building,  originally hoping to open by last October.  But, he explained, “every time we knocked down a wall, we’d go, let’s knock down one more wall. It slowed us down.” They finally opened their doors the first week of January.

The result is a large (3,000 square feet), bright, uncrowded place that feels more like a family restaurant than a pizza joint, complete with a separate banquet room and some very homey decorating touches. (And a sparkling women’s restroom that might be larger than my kitchen.)

The menu features a wide variety of lunch and dinner favorites including burgers, wings, quesadillas, wraps, subs — and pizza of course. And Benjamin takes pride in the fact that he buys everything locally.

Later this spring, customers can look forward to a new ice cream room with two outside serving windows, and an enclosed outdoor seating area with a gazebo and umbrella tables.

If all that sounds very family-friendly, you’re right. That’s exactly the atmosphere that Benjamin is going for. So you won’t find a noisy bar or even any alcoholic drinks, just plenty of space for parents and kids to enjoy a nice dinner.

And don’t be surprised if Jim Benjamin himself comes over to your table and invites you to have your family photo taken under the Benji’s logo. It’s a new tradition at Benji’s, but I have a feeling it’ll be going on for a long time.

Benji’s Pizza and Grill is located at 1998 Empire Blvd. Visit them online here, on Facebook here or call them at 585-446-0600.

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