By Liesel Schmidt
Aug. 8, 2023
GRAYTON BEACH – While Grace Pizza & Shakes’ origin story begins in 1990, the actual restaurant didn’t come to fruition until 31 years later when founder Adrian Hembree teamed up with Vincent “VJ” Nandlal to build on their shared love of pizza and one very important ingredient in their lives: grace. At the time, Hembree was already a successful restaurateur with multiple concepts under his belt, but still had yet to open the pizzeria he had been dreaming of owning since he was 16. Meanwhile, Nandlal had been wanting to go into the pizza business for his first venture in the restaurant world. Their combined ideas for a more modernized pizzeria with a specialized shake menu made them a strong partnership, as did their common belief that God’s grace had saved their lives.
“We wanted to have a modern-day pizzeria with some fun shakes for dessert,” said co-owner Nandlal, who trained for months at Hembree’s Italian restaurant, Grazia, before opening the first location of Grace. “The name, ‘Grace,’ is just a theme that is so strong for both Adrian and me. We have both ‘wandered’ in our lives, and we had to look deep to find grace and ask God to take over our lives. Since then, we have both been blessed tremendously and want to show to others grace through food and service.”
After opening the flagship location of Grace Pizza & Shakes in 2021 in Alvin, Texas, the partners set their eyes on 30A and opened their Santa Rosa Beach location on May 4, 2022.
“Both Adrian and I have ties to this area,” Nandlal explained of how the locale even landed on their radar, so far from the Texas flagship. “My family has been local to Blue Mountain Beach for quite a while, and I’ve wanted to move here forever. I know we had both been praying for an opportunity here. Once the location got presented to us, we prayed about it and then jumped right on it!”
Over the past year, Grace Pizza & Shakes has seen an incredible response from the 30A community – another blessing Hembree and Nandlal can count.
“We’ve won awards and have met such great people, from other business owners to locals and tourists that we now call friends,” said Nandlal. “We plan on being around for a long time. We love serving 30A.”
Among the best sellers on the menu are the Supreme Grace pizza, which samples some of Grace’s best attributes: their homemade pizza sauce and scratch made dough, quality meats including their hand-pinched Italian sausage and Wagyu meatballs, and their own whipped ricotta, finished with house made buttermilk ranch.
“It is the signature pie here,” Nandlal noted, going on to describe one that tops his personal list: the Sweet Perfection. “It’s a white garlic base with shredded mozzarella cheese, Wagyu meatballs, whipped ricotta, roasted peppers, and roasted garlic, topped with a hot honey swirl.”
On the shake side of things, the 30A Cake Explosion literally takes the cake, sporting a massive slice of Sweet Henrietta’s cake atop a handmade shake, with a buttercream rim covered in sprinkles – all topped off with whipped cream and a lit sparkler.
“We donate a portion of each to a local charity, so we get to do some cool food and serve our community in the process,” said Nandlal, whose own favorite bears his name. “The VJ’s Oreo Overload is awesome … Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love Oreos?”
As plentiful as pizza restaurants may be, Grace Pizza & Shakes sets itself apart by using the highest quality ingredients, preparing everything fresh daily, and having exceptional customer service.
As Nandlal said, “We like to think that our genuine love for people and service will make our guests come back and visit often.”
Grace Pizza & Shakes is located at 38 Clayton Lane, Santa Rosa Beach. Open Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., reservations are not accepted. For more information, call 850-399-4051 or visit gracepizzaandshakes.com.