CRISP, Walpole MA/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
A Very CRISP Restaurant Opening in Walpole, Massachusetts
The pies at CRISPWalpole meet or
surpass many of the
legendary bar pizzas joints South of Boston while the rest of the
menu approaches comfort foods perfection.
Cheese pizza from CRISP.
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz.
created on 2/14/2020.
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Even before CRISPWalpole opened in Walpole, Mass. mid-January
2020, many locals
could not only taste the mouthwatering South Shore-style bar pizza but
also the possibility of a wildly successful business.
Social media chatter, people peaking through the windows to see the
and an easily accessible, accountable, marketing-savvy
owner helped create the buzz. Others anticipated the virtues of a good
South Shore bar pizza -- a crispy, slightly greasy thin pie typically
cooked in an amply-oiled 10-inch pan with sauce and cheese.
Walpole area fans of South Shore bar pizza would have such a place to
call their own, much like those lining up for pies at legendary, long
established spots like the
in Whitman, the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph, Town Spa Pizza in Stoughton
and Cape Cod
Café in Brockton. The South Shore, by the way, is considered by many as an area of
Massachusetts spanning south and east of Boston to Cape Cod.
That anticipation of a bar pizza place closer to home for Walpole area
residents turned into reality on Jan. 15, 2020. CRISP owner Rob Carnes announced, largely
through social media, that his restaurant would open at 4 p.m. The
crowds coming in at that time, however, found they had to line up
behind more crowds that had arrived well before the opening time. The
next thing Carnes and staff knew, they were making up to 500 pizzas in
just one day.
As a result, many customers experienced pizza orders taking up to two
and other meals 30-40 minutes. Soon, however, Carnes and staff shifted
into overdrive and found solutions to successfully serving the public
with much shorter waits. Customers could soon be seen coming
out of CRISPWalpole in much better moods, carrying out bar pizzas in
the traditional cardboard plates with the pies wrapped in a brown paper
bags. Others preferred to dine at the long pleasant dining area
with tile floors, hanging lights, a barnwood-style wall, and plenty of
windows to let in light.
Opening day at CRISPWalpole.
Within a few weeks of opening, CRISP started working
on a 650 sq. ft. addition with two new additional pizza ovens ordered
keep up with the overwhelming response. They are ready for
the constant flow of business...
Ready for the pizza crowds at CRISP. Photo source: CRISP
"We are going non-stop," said Carnes, 50. "There's no break in the
action. At first, it was overwhelming.
On a larger scale, think of 100,000 people going to Gillette Stadium.
Not everyone is going to get in. We figured out things pretty quickly,
The soft opening resulted in one of the most successful small business
debuts over the past 20-plus years in Walpole. The downtown suddenly
that much more busy with cars jam-packing the CRISP parking lot and
filling all spots around the corner on Front St. All those customers
inside - easily
myriad windows and ambient lighting -- revealed the small business
American Dream seemingly achieved in less than 24 hours.
Those familiar with South Shore bar pizza knew with the first
CRISPWalpole's version either attained and surpassed the quality of the
famed aforementioned pizza joints. That's not a surprise,
however, as Carnes
found the knack for making bar pizza by working many years at the Venus
Cafe. He has basically taken that mouthwatering template and perfected
and science of making classic bar pizza. Anyone working
for him also needs to adhere to those high standards.
Pepperoni pizza from CRISP. Photo source: CRISP Facebook page.
"We already let a few people go because they just couldn't
follow the rules," said Carnes. "Sometimes it is better to hire
people with no experience so they can learn right from the beginning.
Some of those with experience come in and think they know what they are
doing when they don't. They say 'I know how to make a good bar pizza,'
and I tell them, 'No you don't -- forget everything you've learned.'
They feel like they have a license to make it their own way. That's not
the way things work around here. There's a very precise
way to make the pizza and it has to be done the same way each and every
time. It's like cloning. I will not allow any variations. I have given
away free pizzas when they aren't done correctly."
The Special: pepper, onion and
One thing for sure: Carnes lives and breathes his business and knows
pizza like the back of his hand.
"The dough has to be of a certain age," said Carnes. "The cheese has a
certain blend. The sauce is more about taste. But the layer of dough is
most important. It all comes together for an amazing taste."
Seafood pizza with lobster, scallops, shrimp, a creamy Alfredo base and butter crumb topping.
Going Far Beyond Bar Pizza
Executive Chef Nick
Miele with some of his comfort food creations.
a simple recipe for small business success: Give the
people what they want, create food that surpasses even "the best of"
type restaurants and be accountable for any success and failures.
He stresses that CRISP is not just about the pizza and that his other
selections meet the high standards of the pies. Carnes has basically
taken favorite comfort foods and ensured that each dish approaches
"Why serve anything that doesn't meet those standards?" said Carnes? "I
mean, why even bother?"
Right from the beginning when
the building was virtually empty,
CRISPWalpole, Carnes said with confidence he would serve the freshest
steaks and tastiest desserts. Some wondered, online, how that could be
when the area already possessed some great places to go for chicken,
steak and seafood?
Carnes brought in executive chef Nick Miele to help achieve those high
standards. Miele, who has served as an executive chef at Barrett's
Alehouse in West Bridgewater, Mass. and North Attleboro, Mass.,
Nordstrom Bistro and The Local in West Newton. Like the food he
creates, Miele's career was made from scratch, working his way up from
bartender to cook to chef. Miele has this innate gift that you just
can't teach as he finds ways to create comfort foods with a twist.
The menu features
a wide variety of foods -- something for everyone -- that includes, in
addition to pizza, salads, homemade soups (including delicious New
England clam chowder), appetizers, cold and hot sandwiches and wraps,
fresh seafood, pasta, healthy bowls and entrees like steak tips ( as
good as the famous Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea),
chicken kebob, and stir fry chicken, beef or shrimp. CRISP also makes a
tremendous lobster mac and cheese, as well as excellent lobster rolls.
said Jennifer Healy. "We've tried a few
different kinds of pizza, salad, and steak & cheese... everything
has been great!"
Let's take a
closer look at some of these masterpieces...
The seafood platter with haddock, scallops, full belly clams, calamari and
fries served with housemade onion rings and cole slaw, lemon and a side salad is as
good as anything you'll find at well-known coastal seafood shacks and
restaurants. Delivered fresh, the tender
seafood can be either fried or broiled.
Fried seafood platter.
Those who have tasted an authentic Philly Steak and Cheese sandwich
will not be disappointed with CRISPWalpole's version. Loaded with
flavorful steak, peppers and onions, this might just be one of the best
and cheese to be found in the area...
Steak and cheese from CRISPWalpole.
This linguine with homemade meatballs dish rivals the most highly
regarded affordable Italian restaurants in the North End of Boston.
pasta dish from CRISPWalpole.
"If you love those new city
burger bars but not so much the price and attitude, CRISPWalpole comes
up with its own juicy, flavorful affordable version of this American
Cheeseburger with fries from CRISP.
Crisp also offers the next best thing to Thanksgiving-style turkey with this delicious, aptly-named Thanksgiving sandwich with house-roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry aioli and turkey gravy...
If you love lobster and grilled cheese, this sandwich brings together the two of these beloved foods in one sandwich -- teeming with gooey cheese and plenty of lobster meat...
Lobster grilled cheese from CRISP.
CRISP also caters to the more health-conscious crowd with fresh
And selections like this mixed squash noodles bowl (yellow and zucchini
butternut) with brown rice (with grilled chicken added)...
Mixed noodles bowl.
While many choose to
dine-in or do take-out, CRISP also has seen a
robust delivery service.
have only experienced delivery," said Christine Marcucella. "Both times my delivery drivers were
very personable. It was (delivered) earlier than
quoted time and this is worth mentioning because the restaurant was
busy at those times, so a delay would have been reasonable to expect. I
must point out I think the pricing is right, too, which is important to
me because my teen and I do not always crave the same thing. The
pricing allowed me to get what we both wanted, rather than compromise
because I am the parent. The owner also seems to care about each
customer. Again, so delightful, and makes me want to return!
There's another element to
CRISP, however, that takes this unique eatery to the next level, and
actually far beyond...
Bringing the Bakery to Downtown Walpole
As if it wasn't enough to bring one of the South of Boston's most
prized dishes to Walpole in the form of bar pizza, CRISPWalpole found
another legend from that area for customers to enjoy. CRISP fostered an
affiliation Montilio's Baking Company of Boston to bring in fresh baked
Montilio's truck delivers baked good to CRISP.
"Nice to have a
place to buy pastry
in town," said Linda Wigren, a Walpole resident and real estate agent.
The bakery section is surprisingly
comprehensive, as opposed to an
afterthought. That means specialty cakes...
And, of course, the beloved whoopie pie...
"I would suggest
trying many items
on the menu, plus the fabulous Montilio's!" said Joanne Mulligan, a Walpole
Montilio's display case at CRISP.
How Carnes Went From a Soggy to CRISP Career
Rob and daughter, Hannah, who works at CRISP.
Like applicants who came into CRISP and thought they could make pizzas
their own way, Carnes also was once that "know-it-all." The Whitman,
native who graduated
Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, Mass. and Bridgewater State
College (now Bridgewater State University) in Bridgewater, Mass. worked
at the Venus Cafe from 1985 to 1994 and next in the food service
facilities management industries at Sodexo, Seilers Food Service
Corporation and Waltham-Weston Hospital (kitchen staff) before
returning to the Venus again. He had also opened Robert's Pub in
Taunton, Mass. that offered Venus-cafe style bar pizza, as well as
tips and other pub foods before it closed after four years in business.
At that point, I was too immature as a business owner," said Carnes.
"When in my 20s, I thought I knew everything. That was a mistake...
Robert's Pub, it was bland and ridiculous and I couldn't have thought
of a worse name!"
As a transitional career move, Carnes then gained invaluable
experience for several years at Sysco.
"It was a great job," said Carnes. "I learned more about the food
industry with the knowledge they imparted on me. I was a pizza guy and
they taught me about everything else I needed to know to make it in the
Carnes went onto work for Reinhart Foodservice (recently purchased by
Performance Food Group Company) but eventually felt burned out and got
a job in the insurance industry. Selling insurance just wasn't
in his DNA, however.
"It bored the heck out of me,' said Carnes. "I could sell insurance,
bonds and stock but it just wasn't for me."
Carnes returned to Reinhart and has been there ever since, first in
sales and now business development management. He works there full-time
along with owning CRISPWalpole (part of his emerging New England Bar
Co. business). He says the CRISP opportunity (in a building that
Red Cherry Frozen Yogurt and Red Cherry Cafe) was too good to pass
opening the business involved more than one potential owner but Carnes
was ultimately the only one who committed. He couldn't be any happier.
"Are you kidding me -- being smack dab in the middle of town, all the
traffic, the town green, all those apartments coming soon to the
center," exclaimed Carnes. "I mean, we just had to be
here. I jumped at the opportunity and I am glad everything fell into
Recently, CRISP expanded to outdoor seating to accommodate more customers during the pandemic and beyond. Patio seating, a firepit and bar add ambiance, nicely juxtaposed with historic, quaint Walpole center.
Outdoor bar area.
Outdoor dining patio.
The location is ideal and idyllic for Carnes and company.
"It's such a close-knit community and
the New England setting with all those New England buildings is really
special," said Carnes"
Carnes' daughters Hannah and
Molly work at CRISP (the former full-time, the latter on Sundays). His
wife, Maria Tassiopulos, who owns Islington
sometimes helps out at CRISP in between her very busy schedule. His mom and dad are proud of
their son and wear CRISP jackets whenever possible.
"Yeah, they are happy with
what I am doing," said Carnes. "But it just doesn't end with CRISP
Walpole. I would like to market CRISP not as a chain but something that
is replicable. I have the New England Bar Pizza Co. and do not just
want to have a single mom and pop place."
The front of CRISP.
If CRISP were a politician, it
would win in a landslide vote as a
populist selection for the masses. And if CRISP were a baseball
player, the five-year wait rule for Hall of Fame induction might have
to be waved, given home runs in the form of meals are hit one after the
There's something to be said about food that people actually
like and creating it to the highest level possible. While typical
restaurants standardize their food selections to adequate standards,
taken it a big step farther with standardizing CRISP selections
to near perfection.
how I can get a grown up meal -- seafood, lobster roll, salads, steak
and cheese, egg rolls -- in the same place that both my kids get what
want," said Ceallaigh
Ni Chaoimh. "Everyone
is happy when we go to CRISP! One
stop has everything! And then the desserts!"
Additionally, CRISP has gained the respect of the community in just a
matter of weeks by giving back. They brought surprise lunches to the
Walpole Fire and Police Departments as an ode to and respect and
appreciation for their service in keeping
CRISP pays a visit to the Walpole Police Department. Photo
CRISP Facebook page.
CRISP has also been quick to support local sports organization. Walpole resident Heidi
McGrath Valle explains...
has already established a great reputation by supporting local sports
organizations. Crisp donated an enormous amount of pizza to support the
Walpole High School Wrestling team for a large meet at Walpole High
School. Our Boosters organization was able to sell their product at our
snack bar and it was well received and sold out in minutes. Extremely
kind community gesture on their part, particularly as they were
extremely busy that Saturday. Class act and we are grateful! Great
community addition to the town."
Adds Carnes,"I didn't grow up here, but feel it's important to give
back to the community," said. "We have committed to that right away."
Walpole resident Nancy Dayian sums it up best, reflecting what the
community has experienced at CRISP.
Carnes endeared himself and CRISP to the Walpole community long
before the doors opened," said Dayian. "The pizza is delicious, the staff is
welcoming, and the menu has something for everyone."
located at 1049 Main St. (Route 1A), Walpole,MA. Tel.
Web site: https://www.crispizza.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CRISPWalpoleMA/
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/CRISPWalpole/
- Wednesday 11a.m. - 8p.m.<
- Saturday 11a.m. - 8p.m.
available until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday)
12 noon -6p.m.
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More local small business
look at downtown Walpole
a community-led organization to steer the revitalization of downtown
Market, Milford, Mass.
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