For more than a decade, Lucy Blue Pizza has been pushing the envelope and challenging what it means to bring fresh homemade pizza to Cincinnati. The first Lucy Blue opened in 2003 at 12th and Walnut streets and brought the famed pizza window to the late-night lifestyle of the area. This feature, something unexplored by restaurants in urban Cincinnati before this point, helped the small pizza restaurant explode in popularity. From there, Lucy Blue has been popping up in many locations such as Covington, downtown and Mt. Lookout, a location which has recently been sold as a franchise.
“Years ago, we looked at the city and we saw a lot of pizza places, but no one was serving food late at night,” says Jim Thompson, co-owner and founder of Lucy Blue Pizza. “And that’s basically what we did; we really owned the late night.”
The new Main Street location in Over-the-Rhine, opened last year, was designed strategically to accommodate the changing atmosphere and needs of an evolving community. Reflecting this is the wall of beer with 65 different craft beers, local and imports, and six rotating beer taps featuring popular local drafts. The location also has a featured cocktail and wine menu. “With the changes in
Over-the-Rhine, we wanted to build something that was substantial,” says Jim. “As Lynn (Thompson) likes to say, we wanted Lucy to grow up.” Lynn adds that the restaurant offers specialty salads made from fresh ingredients, unique sandwiches and Lynn’s famous olive oil brownies.
Because of its location near the business district, the Main Street location draws a diverse blend of clientele, which perpetuates a unique and interesting atmosphere that differs significantly from any other Lucy Blue Pizza location. With families dining on pizza, couples sharing a bottle of wine, downtown employees grabbing a bite before heading back to the office, and sports fans of all ages watching the three large screens and cheering on their fans, Lucy Blue Pizza attracts pizza lovers from throughout downtown and the OTR.
With the addition of the downtown location, the Thompson family found new and interesting trends that differed from the previous locations. With each Lucy Blue location being custom designed by Lynn to fit the theme and style of the neighborhood the downtown Lucy on 7th Street was designed with function and speed in mind. “When we built the 7th street store, across from the Aronoff Center, we found out how popular the pizza buffet could be for our lunchtime customers, especially with our homemade salads and soups” says Taylor, who helps her father manage Lucy Blue. The buffet concept is very popular because people can walk in, pay and choose from a wide selection specialty pizzas and salads.
One of the draws of a Lucy Blue meal, whether one orders a specialty pizza, a sandwich or homemade soup on a chilly winter day is that everything is made with a high regard to quality. As a family-owned and operated restaurant the Thompson family closely monitors every ingredient that comes in to ensure that every product going out to customers is worthy of the Lucy Blue name. “We’re really proud that we use our original recipe for the dough,” says Jim. “We use fresh ingredients for everything, and everything is of premium quality. We don’t just open cans – that’s a really important part of our process.”
The dough is not only an original recipe, but it’s made fresh and by hand. After painstakingly working to invent the recipe through trial and error when Lucy Blue was just starting out, Jim is proud of the unique way the dough is crafted. “Dough is a living organism, so it’s a challenge every day,” he says.
But when it came to crafting the sauce, Jim knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I knew I wanted it to be spicy,” he says. “I was serving pizza to people at four in the morning and I wanted to wake them up a bit.”
Now that Lucy Blue Pizza is established, with every location using the same fresh vegetables and homemade recipes, the Thompson family is looking to the future. With the opening of Main Street they now host private parties in addition to catering events such as weddings and charity gatherings. “We have hosted private Christmas parties, we’ve had concerts featuring multiple bands, and last Spring we hosted a Reds Opening Day party,” says Jim.
Leading the charge into future plans and bright futures is Jim and Lynn’s daughter, Taylor. “Taylor is the general manager of Lucy Blue and she’s grown up in this business,” says Jim. She started working at the first pizza window when she was in high school. After college, Taylor realized her heart was really in the family business, and she’s been working to learn everything about the operations of Lucy Blue Pizza and the hospitality business overall. As the general manager, Taylor is working to familiarize herself with all the challenges facing a future business owner. “Just about the time she’d learned things really well on 7th street, like scheduling, inventory and the POS system, we began building the Main Street location,” says Jim. “She watched and learned how to build out a location, design the line and work with the different trades. She’s done a great job and she’s pushing us to do more.”
Whether individuals are heading to the pizza buffet downtown to unwind during lunch, or popping by the late-night window after a night out with friends, Lucy Blue Pizza has become a staple that Cincinnatians enjoy no matter what the clock says. v
Lucy Blue – Main Street is located at 1126 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.381.3747.
Lucy Blue – Downtown is located at 35 East Seventh Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.381.7777.
Lucy Blue – Covington is located at 611 Main Street, Covington, KY 41011. You can reach them at 859.581.3555.
Lucy Blue – Mount Lookout is located at 3200 Linwood Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45226. You can reach them at 513.321.2540.
For more information about Lucy Blue visit their website at www.lucybluepizza.com.