CASEY -- A jalapeno popper pizza is not the only newly designed pizza created with a homemade, personal touch by owner Trent Groothuis at The Greathouse of Pizza in Casey.
Groothuis, who has been in the pizza business since 2002 and bought The Greathouse of Pizza in 2008, has been designing unique pizza art for more than a year. The art, which focuses primarily on sports logos or current events items, keeps gaining more and more attention.
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"The pizza art started one day in October of last year when we were doing a fundraiser that we do every year called The Slice Of Hope for the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Research Foundation," he said.
"It is a fundraiser where a number of pizzerias around the U.S. donate a percentage of their sales to the foundation on the given day in October," the pizzeria owner said. "I decided to make a cancer ribbon pizza and take a pic of it and put it on our Facebook page and Instagram page. The pizza got a lot of 'likes' and 'shares' as well as comments. It even got featured in the magazine Pizza Today."
He said he was so excited about the overwhelmingly positive response that he decided to do a Cardinals logo when the Cardinals made it to the World Series last year. He put photos on social media including Facebook and Instagram and again received a lot of "likes" and "shares."
At the time, Groothuis, who started his career working at Pagliais in Charleston, was actually living in a little apartment at the back of the Greathouse of Pizza restaurant and would work on the creations late at night. Since then he has made more than 30 pizza art designs.
"Whenever I have a little time on my hands, I will make an art pie and put the pics on social media to try to get some responses," he said. "People seem to like them so I just keep doing them when I have time."
Groothuis is the sole designer in all of the creations with the exception of a Tony Romo Jersey dessert pizza. He said one of his employees helped him make that one for her husband's birthday.
The artist doesn't need any special equipment as he works. He said he uses pizza boxes to cut out his templates. He places the templates over the rolled-out dough. He said sometimes it doesn't work, and he just has to go ahead and freehand the design.
Groothuis uses materials he already has, including a dough roller, pizza oven, pizza sauce, cheese and other toppings. He will sometimes have to buy vegetables to coordinate the colors he needs within the designs. For the dessert pizzas, he might have to buy blueberries for blue or strawberries for red.
"I find it rewarding when someone who has never been in before from another town comes in and says they saw my pizza art on Facebook and decided to stop in and try our pizza," said Groothuis. "We seem to be getting a lot more of that from Terre Haute area, Robinson area, and Mattoon/Charleston lately."