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Owner Justin Bennett puts a Sweet Thai Chicken pizza in the oven for his wife at Pizzeria Cortile on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 in Chattanooga, Tenn. According to the menu, the Sweet Thai Chicken pizza has "peanut sauce, cheese blend, roasted chicken, embered onions, cilantro and green onion."
some text Owner Justin Bennett preps a Sweet Thai Chicken pizza for his wife at Pizzeria Cortile on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 in Chattanooga, Tenn. According to the menu, the Sweet Thai Chicken pizza has "peanut sauce, cheese blend, roasted chicken, embered onions, cilantro and green onion."

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Learn more online at www.facebook.com/pizzeriacortile

 

Rome wasn't built in a day — and neither was Pizzeria Cortile.

On Dec. 13, the pizzeria at 4400 Dayton Blvd., in north Red Bank, began to serve thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza baked in an imported Italian pizza oven that uses wood fire — and only wood fire.

It took about a year longer than expected to open the pizzeria pronounced "core tee lay."

"Basically, we ran out of money," said Justin Bennett, who co-owns Pizzeria Cortile with his wife, Amanda.

The Bennetts lease the space, but they got stalled lining up a federal Small Business Administration loan to finish improvements to their building, which is just one business away from Dub's Place BBQ and Burgers.

The young couple finally got funding that worked through Southern Heritage Bank, a Cleveland, Tenn.-based community bank that recently opened its first Chattanooga branch near Hamilton Place mall.

"They've been super helpful," said Bennett.

He did much of the remodeling work himself, but needed outside help for such things as electrical work.

To buy the pizza oven, the Bennetts launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 that raised $11,081 through 116 individual donations to be repaid by the restaurant through such things as pizza and T-shirts.

Pizzeria Cortile, which has two dozen employees and seats about 45 people inside, has been busy — even though the Bennetts waited a few days to announce the opening on their Facebook page.

"Every night we fill up at least once," Bennett said. "We have a lot of repeat business."

The menu includes a Caesar salad for $7, 12-inch pizzas that range from $8 to $10, cannoli at $7 for dessert, and beer on tap for $6 a pint.

The Bennetts hope to get permission from the city of Red Bank to allow bring-your-own wine. Eventually, the restaurant wants to serve wine.

Cortile is Italian for "courtyard" or "gathering place for the community."

"Our neighbors have been coming in," said Bennett, a Red Bank native and resident. "People moving in [to Red Bank] want something you can get downtown — but get it at their place."

Jordan Miller, the owner of Dub's Place, likes Pizzeria Cortile's simple menu, its setup and the way the Bennetts fixed up the building.

"I'm really happy to have him as my neighbor," Miller said. "Anytime we can draw people past Ashland Terrace in Red Bank is a good thing."

While Pizzeria Cortile is the Bennetts' first restaurant, it grew out of the food truck from which they sold pizza, Local Slice.

The Bennetts aren't superstitious — at least not about 13 — because they launched Local Slice on Dec. 13, 2012, and opened Pizzeria Cortile on Dec. 13 of this year.

"It was five years to the day," Bennett said of the time lapse between the business openings.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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