If your stomach is empty and you need someone to talk to, Dennis Van Oostendorpis is just the man to wain the woe.
Van Oostendorpis, owner and operator of 6‘N Tubbs on Jackson Avenue, said there is one thing he would like to make clear from the get go:
“This place is not a restaurant," he said, grinning. "It’s more social than that. You come in, have a slice, shoot the breeze, watch the game and split when you’re ready. 6’N Tubbs is a pizza joint."
The “pizza joint,” which garnered its name from its original address on the corner of Highway 6 and Tubbs Road in Batesville, came to Oxford in August 2011 and has been serving hand-tossed New York-style pizzas, calzones and strombolis six days a week ever since.
Patrons can usually catch the Florida/ New York native behind the counter wearing a football T-shirt and baseball hat, flour covering his hands and clothes as he tosses a pizza or pulls one out of the large deck oven.
Van Oostendorpis describes the place as “Manhattan meets Mississippi” and it's easy to see why. The walls are covered with a map of the New York City subway system, more than a few Dave Matthews Band posters, as well as one of Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, about six New York license plates, some Eli Manning photographs and an impressive collection of Jo DiMaggio memorabilia.
The atmosphere is comfortable, like a family establishment, but cool,like the groovy dorm room down the hall. All the prices are to the dollar so no one has to dig for change, and although the pizza is served with a fork and knife, customers are encouraged to eat with their hands.
“I want the place to feel easy,” Van Oostendorpis said. “You can here come just to hang out and not even have anything to eat. It’s all about acceptance.”
Coming in and not eating would be a difficult task though, given the fresh smell of pizza in the oven. Van Oostendorpis acquired his recipe from an old co-worker at Sony Corporation, where he served as executive chef before entering the pizza business.
“There was a Sicilian guy named Frank Darco, who had sold his pizzeria and retired and started working at Sony with me," Van Oostendorpis said. "You don’t learnhow to make pizza. Someone has to show you. Darco showed me, and I use his recipe, altered a bit."
Darco hasn't created the 6’N Tubbs experience alone. Mary Grimes Van Oostendorpis, Dennis’ 75-year-old mother, covers the floor while he works the kitchen.
“She takes all the orders and handles all the cash,” Van Oostendorpis said. “She’s the glue and I’m the boards.”
Mary is likely to stop by tables to ensure her customers are eating.
“You better get back to that pizza before it gets cold,” she said. “I want to see more eating.”
Ole Miss accounting sophomoreEllen Whitaker said she likes 6’N Tubbs because it offers a break from the norm.
“I like that it isn’t a chain,” Whitaker said. “You can tell everything is fresh. He slices the mozzarella right there in front of you and you know where it’s coming from and you know who’s giving it to you.”
Van Oostendorpis said he decided to leave his job at Sony, move to Mississippi, where his parents and brother were living, and open a pizzeria because he wanted to help satisfy people the best way he knew how — with food.
“Yeah, I have to bust my ass sometimes when it’s busy, but seeing a little kid holding a slice of pizza with a smile on his face makes it worth it," he said. "It’s like a family here."
And like every family, 6'N Tubbs regulars are garnered with nicknames before long.
“Once you start coming a lot, you get a nickname: Ron from New York or Hotty Toddy Scotty, for example," Van Oostendorpis explained. "I got out of the big business so I could see who I was feeding. I’d rather win someone’s stomach than win some award. Awards don’t feed anybody.”
Van Oostendorpis wants 6’N Tubbs to be "of and for the people."
“I don’t believe this is my place," Van Oostendorpis said. "It’s your place. This is where you come when you want pizza, so it’s yours. This is where the kids play hopscotch on the floor and the young guys eat after the baseball game. I don’t eat here. The food is for you.”
For good conversation and tasty food, stop by 6'N Tubbs on Jackson Avenue Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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