Restaurant News & Reviews

Not a drill: Cult favorite Cincinnati pizza restaurant opens in Lexington on Monday

If you thought the opening of the Skyline Chili last year was big, owner Gary Holland said, brace yourself: LaRosa’s Pizzeria, opening on Monday, will be even bigger.

Holland, CEO of One Holland Corp., which has the Lexington franchises for Skyline, First Watch and LaRosa’s, said Wednesday that when Skyline opened last summer, it set records. The restaurant had a line out the door an hour before it opened.

And the entire time people kept saying, “Skyline is great, but when is LaRosa’s going to open?” So Holland doubled the kitchen capacity of the one opening next week on Richmond Road. It will be the second-largest LaRosa’s in the chain, behind only the original.

“We are completely and totally prepared for the chaos that is about to ensue,” Holland said. “It is going to be so busy. This is going to be record sales, too.”

Will it be enough? Hard to say. For perspective, look at Cincinnati, the home of LaRosa’s. Almost half of all pizza ordered there is LaRosa’s pizza, Holland said.

The menu at LaRosa’s features Cincinnati-style pizza (think sweeter sauce) plus pastas, hoagies, wings, appetizers, desserts and more. There also will be a full bar. Ryan C. Hermens

“This is the definition of pizza in Cincinnati,” he said. “It’s phenomenally popular. It’s a cult, just like Skyline. A lot of people in Lexington are very excited ... ‘we’re going to have King’s Island pizza here!’”

What makes this pizza different? “It’s the sauce,” Holland said. “It has a sweetness and is very crave-able.” The recipe came from founder Buddy LaRosa’s grandmother; he asked her for it when he opened his first restaurant in 1954.

The menu ranges from pizza and pasta to salads and sandwiches, appetizers and wings, plus desserts.

“This is life-changing, right here,” Holland said, pointing to their rondos, a pizza roll appetizer.

The Keeneland room is among the seating areas in the 186-seat LaRosa’s that opens Monday. Ryan C. Hermens

The new restaurant will seat 186, and LaRosa’s will deliver. There is a full bar. Garage-door style windows can be opened in warm weather. A Keeneland room and a 40-seat University of Kentucky room can be booked for parties. There are plans for curbside pickup. LaRosa’s also will be opening a pickup/delivery location on Southland Drive later this year that will serve the UK campus.

LaRosa’s on Richmond Road will have a 40-seat room, with a UK theme, that can be booked for parties. Ryan C. Hermens

Speaking of UK, One Holland Corp. also just became a partner of UK Athletics. The relationship means that beginning in the fall, fans can get Skyline Chili, which is now UK’s “official chili,” at Kroger Field and Rupp Arena.

The restaurants will be expanding all over Lexington and Central Kentucky: First Watch and LaRosa’s will be coming to Richmond, and LaRosa’s and Skyline will be coming to Brannon Crossing, Holland said.

From left, Gary Holland, LaRosa’s co-owner and One Holland CEO; Tim Crofford chief operating officer; and Dillon Adams, co-owner and president, at the LaRosa’s on Richmond Road that will open Monday. Ryan C. Hermens