Love At First Slice –
How many first dates lead to a wedding and a successful business? Alexa and Paul Sponica’s (pronounced spon cee uh) first night out was also Alexa’s first time visiting Hard Knox Pizza. It was love at first slice and now she is happily married to both restaurant and husband!
The cool ambience of the original Bearden location (4437 Kingston Pike) and the just right pizza made for a once a week treat for the then dating couple, a tradition they carried into their marriage. One night while enjoying their go to pie, the Iron Mike (fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, caramelized garlic, hand shaved parmesan, extra virgin olive oil) with an extra topping of sausage, Alexa spied a sign about franchising Hard Knox.
They say luck favors the prepared –
With a long history in the restaurant business from her time in Florida and an event planning business in Knoxville, Alexa had the talent, the experience and an ideal opportunity to make a successful business. What began as a conversation about franchising in April 2014 ended with the sale of the restaurant in October of the same year. A spot on the Tripadvisor Top 10 Pizza Places in Knoxville says that it has worked out pretty well for Hard Knox and their patrons.
What’s the difference? –
Hard Knox serves a distinctive pie. Alexa classified it as Neo-Neopolitan wood fired pizza…I just call it delicious. The idea was to take an old world recipe and freshen it up with a modern menu. Take the Barbed Wire pizza for example: Local pulled pork, smoked mozzarella, applewood smoked bacon, jalapeño & topped with bourbon reduction (no red sauce). Of course you can enjoy many of the traditional favorites and your experience will still be exceptional because all vegetables and pepperoni are fresh cut and chicken, sausage and mushrooms are oven baked daily. Hard Knox Pizza doesn’t even have a freezer in their kitchens! All dough goes through a two day process to establish a wonderful flavor and texture which is always perfected in the wood fired oven.
Kickin’ it with the community –
Hard Knox Pizza’s goal is to not just be in the community but to improve it. HKP adopted our Hardin Valley Academy boys soccer team and generously donate a portion of the proceeds from Thursday evenings and Saturday night Singo to the team. This money pays for a range of expenses to include covering player dues for families that come up short.
School of Hard Knox –
Alexa has a heart for children and in 2015 she had a special idea! Alexa approached Austin East High School and asked if she could assist in their culinary program. Her time with the students was so mutually beneficial that she helped organize bringing in other local shops to teach the kids how to prepare professional grade meals.
This program is more than just a feel good story, it helped restaurant owners identify talent for their businesses. Quan Evans, a graduate of Austin East and participant in the School of Hard Knox now leads the HKP location in Bearden as a store manager and has been doing a phenomenal job.
‘Best Seller’ and the ‘Gotta Try It’ –
The reigning, undefeated, undisputed, best selling pie at Hard Knox Pizza is none other than the Bonecrusher. This delicious combination consists of homemade red sauce, fresh mozzarella, Italian sausage, pepperoni, rosemary and crushed red pepper. If you are looking for an unsung hero, give the Le Boxeur a try. It’s a white pie (signature white sauce base) topped with smoked mozzarella, genoa salami, garlic dijon aioli.
The other item you’ve been missing out on are the salads with their house made dressings: lemon Parmesan, Caesar, house vinaigrette. Order one as a side or get a full salad to share with the table.
Pride and Joy –
When asked what they are most proud of, you’d expect the food or the success but the Hard Knox Pizza restaurateur says it’s her staff. Alexa envisioned a place where kindness and helping employees succeed were just as much a part of the manager meetings as were the day to day operations. Managers such as the aforementioned Quan Evans in Bearden as well as Emma Carver and Grace McMichael here in Hardin Valley have been with Alexa since she purchased the first store. Together, they have created a culture where employees can gain skills, receive positive feedback and find success.
Need a pizza the action? –
It’s just a hop, skip and a jump to their storefront at 10849 Hardin Valley Road Knoxville, TN 37932. Store hours run Monday thru Thursday: 11-9, Friday & Saturday: 11-10 and Sunday: 11-9. Join them every Saturday night at 7PM for SINGO (a musical spin on traditional bingo. instead of listening for a letter and number, players are listening to their favorite music!)
Need to cater or pre-order a meal? Order online – https://hardknoxpizza.com/
For all of the latest, follow the Hard Knox Pizza Facebook Page.
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