BY ANDREA VARGO
This is not your typical restaurant, said Steve Berg, owner of the new eatery on the south side of Hwy. 12 in Howard Lake.
"It is somewhere between fast food and a sit-down restaurant," he said.
Steve and his wife Trudy opened Bergie's Pizza and Subs on Oct. 7, and they are very happy with the way it turned out.
Trudy said it was very difficult to take a building with "all these walls" in it and visualize the complete remodel needed to provide kitchen and eating spaces that are efficient and comfortable.
Working on restaurant design is a far cry from her job the last eight years with Carlson Companies in Plymouth, but brings her back to her roots.
Trudy's mom and dad started the first pizza shop in Wright County in 1958, she said, so she has worked in the food service business most of her life.
Trudy and Steve said they missed the restaurant business; the people, the camaraderie.
Steve said the area is ready for growth.
"When the Hwy 12 (improvement project) comes through, it should really make a positive difference," he said.
The areas to the north and east of Howard Lake (Buffalo, Monticello, the Hwy. 12 corridor) are all growing rapidly, and soon Steve said it will be Howard Lake's turn.
"We talked about (the growth and need for something like this) for a long time before we finally got started," Trudy said.
But getting started was easier said than done, said Steve. When it came time to work on the inside of the building, construction people were all working on storm-related projects.
That meant that Steve had to do a lot of the work himself with the help of Erv Luhman of Howard Lake.
Trudy told her brother, Tom Hatrick of Minneapolis, that she wanted something different for the walls.
Instead of pictures, she wanted shadow boxes and window stuff, she said.
Hatrick went on a quest, scrounging items from recycling and dumpsters. He used parts from an old bed, mirror, piano hinges, etc. and made things that look like antiques, she said.
Although not an antique, the recipe for the pizza is old. The original recipe came from her parents through an Italian man in Milwaukee, Wisc., said Trudy.
"Quality control is essential," said Trudy, "and we even have a different type of pizza oven."
She said, the pizzas rest on screens and go through the oven on a conveyor, which gives a better end product.
Total baking time is five minutes and 55 seconds, and it comes out perfect, she said.
With five full-time and 19 part-time employees, she said the restaurant is geared to provide a lot of pizza at one time for large parties.
The restaurant offers 11 specialty pizzas and a large assortment of submarine sandwiches, both hot and cold.
A unique feature is the sub bar, where the diner can add toppings to her/his own sandwich. This gives the opportunity for the customer to get that sub "just right," said Steve.
All the subs are created from fresh bakery bread, and come in two sizes, said Trudy.
The kitchen is right up front for the customers to see, but something the customer can't see is the computer system.
This new technology tabulates time cards, calculates labor costs, income, the busiest time of the day or shift, and has capacity for future inventory.
"If someone calls an order in at 9 a.m. and wants it ready at 5 p.m., there was always the problem of keeping track of it.
"The computer will hold the order and put it up at the right time," Steve said.
The computer will use a database for a future delivery system, said Steve, and perhaps customers will one day order a pizza off a Web page.
It doesn't make pizzas yet.
The restaurant opens every day at 11 a.m., has a pizza and salad bar everyday, and a special Sunday addition of fruit pizza, chicken, soup, and more.
A grand opening is being planned for December, said Steve.