Back in May of 2020, when many businesses were shut down due to local governmental measures related to the coronavirus pandemic, David Small, Big Dawg Pizza, began considering a business idea that he could launch inside of Bowl 32, a family entertainment complex he owns on Westfield Road in Noblesville.
Throughout the next few months David Small and his staff, including General Manager Jeremy Thurber, built out the space that would eventually house Big Dawg Pizza, which offers a unique take on pizza, breadsticks, wings, salads and more.
“I always wanted to get into developing my own franchise, and began looking at the businesses who were capitalizing on carry-out and contactless delivery business during the shutdowns,” says Small, who has owned several bowling centers for the past 11 years in Lafayette, Anderson, Kokomo, Fort Wayne, Noblesville, and Jackson, Michigan. “We’d never gone in that direction. I’ve always been involved in sit-down restaurants, lounges and places of entertainment. We sat and developed a concept, and Big Dawg Pizza was born.”
According to Small, what separates Big Dawg from many other pizza establishments is the sauces, the recipe for which are house secrets, as well as the sizes of the pizzas and toppings. Open a box of Big Dawg pizza and you’ll find pepperoni slices as big in diameter as hockey pucks, large meatballs, as well as peppers and onions that come in rings rather than diced-up sizes.
“When they come here for the first time, people sometimes say, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to eat that?’” Small says with a laugh. “I just say, ‘One bite at a time.’”
Three pizza sizes are available, including the Pup (7”), the Standard (16”) and the Big Dawg (16”x26”). Specialty pizzas include the Golden Retriever, featuring Big Dawg’s signature California sweet sauce with mozzarella, provolone, Muenster and freshly grated parmesan cheeses, as well as the Tail Wagger, which comes layered with red onion, shaved ham, blended cheeses, sausage, green peppers, jumbo pepperoni and sriracha.
Those interested in something a bit different can try out the Dog Bowl, which consists of Italian meatballs, marinara, and six types of cheese in a bread bowl, topped off with oregano and parmesan.
“The Mutt is the biggest pizza seller, and people tend to get it in the Big Dawg size,” Thurber says. “It’s two different sauces pinwheeled together – half is barbecue and half is your more traditional marinara sauce – and it’s got pulled pork, pickles, red onions and bacon. People are a little unsure about pickles on a pizza, but trust me, it’s really good.”
The Big Dawg staff sources its ingredients locally, including veggies from Piazza Produce, and the dough is made in-house daily.
“There’s really a wow factor when you open the box, and it’s all fresh and all made in-house,” Small says. “The size of the pizza is not anything you’ve seen before – you usually see tiny toppings and things like that, that sometimes don’t have the flavor we have. I would never speak ill of other places, but we certainly bring a unique flavor and appeal.”
There’s even a pizza shaped to resemble the American flag, complete with bacon for the stripes, and bacon bits and crumbled sausage for the stars.
The eatery’s name, and the dog-inspired names of many menu items, are the result of a few factors.
“I have bulldogs in my own life, and Jeremy always says things like, ‘Don’t mess with the big dog,’ and so I said that we should just make it Big Dawg Pizza because of all that,” Small says.
Since opening on October 1, Small says Big Dawg has already accumulated several repeat customers, and he hopes to establish the eatery as a local fixture. In November Small, Thurber and their team opened a bulldog-themed lounge area with couches, chairs and coffee tables.
“It’s a cool place to hang out and just relax, if you feel like getting out of the house and having a drink and some pizza, and maybe watching a game,” Thurber says.
Small and Thurber are both excited that Big Dawg has slowly developed a following despite challenges related to the pandemic.
“We’re very please with the response – people here seem to get what we’re doing, and I think as we master the craft we hope to start franchising around Indy and other places,” Small says. “I’ve always wanted to have a franchisable operation, and that’s one of the things I’m excited about. ”
Big Dawg Pizza is located inside Bowl 32 at 845 Westfield Road in Noblesville. For additional details including a menu, specials, an ordering page and more, visit their website. Call 317-678-8385 for more info.