Our Story

Our story begins over 50 years ago with our founder’s (Dean Bastian) family love affair with pizza. Dean’s father discovered pizza while overseas for WWII and brought the concept back to his family, making pizzas in their home for years, continually perfecting the craft. Fast forward to 2009 after Dean and his wife relocated to Knoxville, TN and started Hard Knox Pizzeria with no real experience in the hospitality and restaurant business. Since then Dean’s passion for great pizza and relentless desire to introduce Knoxville to his own brand of authentic “Neo-Neapolitan” pizza has produced a thriving business in the heart of Knoxville’s Bearden district.

In early 2014 Paul and Alexa Sponcia reached out to Dean in the hopes of creating a partnership to open new locations. That connection turned into a deep friendship and an eventual sale of the majority of the business to Paul and Alexa, with Dean and Jill remaining involved as minority partners. Paul and Alexa share the same heart and passion as Dean and Jill for artisan authentic artistic culinary creations, including pizza!

Our Vision at Hard Knox is to re-introduce our neighborhoods to old world culinary methods, through modern concepts, while fostering community experiences in unique re-purposed spaces.  This means we are focusing on building restaurants in local neighborhood spots, utilizing the craftsmanship of old world culinary methods through our new concepts and finally, finding spaces that we can re-purpose from old to new.

Our Mission is to create an unforgettable culinary experience through pizza. This is done by a strict adherence to our vision above and these seven core values that live at the heart of who we are:

  1. Everything matters
  2. Living the golden rule
  3. Keep it real
  4. Go 11
  5. Love of craftsmanship
  6. Figure it out
  7. Love of the community

Our plans include a few more locations throughout our city, and then who knows what happens next.

The whole story of the beginning is best told by our founder, Dean Bastian, in his own words.