When it comes to owning a restaurant specializing in pizza, Pizza Dude owner Luke Russell says, “It’s the best industry to be in. There is nothing life or death with pizza. It’s just about good times with friends and family. That’s why I love this business.”
For Russell and his wife, Tonya, business has been good. The entrepreneurial pair took over the Pizza Dude’s original Pinconning location back in 2012 and recently opened their second location in the former Brick Oven restaurant in Midland.
“I had actually worked at the Pizza Dude in Pinconning when it opened back in 1994,” says Russell. “And when the owner unexpectedly passed away, I couldn’t stand to see all of our hard work disappear and all of the other employees out of a job, so I purchased it.”
Similarly, when family health issues made it impossible to keep the Brick Oven’s doors open, the Russells once again stepped in—happy to keep another establishment open and to have a location in their hometown.
“What makes Pizza Dude different is that we use a brick oven and pizza stones to cook our pizzas, not a conveyor system like most other pizza restaurants,” explains Russell. The restaurant uses as many ingredients as possible from local sources and makes every pizza, grinder, salad, and even French fry fresh in-house every day, grating the mozzarella cheese, crushing tomatoes for the pizza sauce, and seasoning the sausage.
“Our mainstay is our traditional, hand-tossed round pizza,” says Russell. “But we also offer a square deep dish pizza, grinders, chicken wings, and more. Everything we make is prepared fresh to order with the highest quality ingredients, a difference that you can taste in the finished products.”
One of Pizza Dude’s claims to fame is the Bread Ring, a carryover from the restaurant’s days as the Brick Oven. It’s a ring of pizza dough that has been left to rise overnight and then coated in butter and Parmesan cheese as it bakes, resulting in a treat with an amazingly crusty outside and soft doughy inside that is perfect for dipping into the homemade pizza sauce.
“One of my favorite stories is when a family recently came in for the first time, and after eating, the father announced that this was ‘their new pizza place.’ That’s the highest praise we could hope for,” says Russell. “We love being a part of the community.”
Pizza Dude, 4328 N Saginaw Rd, Midland, 989-486-9670, and 326 S Kaiser St, Pinconning, 989-879-3774, www.thepizzadude.net. Hours: Sunday – Thursday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.) and Friday – Saturday (11 a.m. – 11 p.m.).