On the long list of what makes New Orleans famous, healthy food and entrepreneurial verve aren’t typically found near the top. But one young local company is blending those two ingredients for a business model that has attracted extraordinary attention from investors and entrepreneurs, not to mention the pizza-eating public.

The company is NAKEDPizza, and it got its start in 2006 from a backstreet storefront in the Carrollton area under the name World’s Healthiest Pizza. With a catchier name and revamped look, the business now operates a single shop on South Claiborne Avenue, near Tulane University, serving take-out and delivery pizza, and not much else.

But that same company now has a schedule to open 96 new NAKEDPizza franchises in five states, and plans for a further 150 stores are under negotiation.

“It’s a head-turner for a lot of people when they hear healthy food is coming out of New Orleans, and especially that it’s healthy pizza,” says Robbie Vitrano, a partner with NAKEDPizza and chairman of the local agency Trumpet Advertising.

The difference is in the crust. Company co-founder Jeff Leach built a career researching and writing books on nutrition.

In starting his pizza company, he set out to reengineer the nation’s most popular take-out food into something that’s actually good for you. The fiber-loaded pizza dough he developed mixes 10 different seeds and grains, and it’s further fortified with probiotics – beneficial bacteria similar to those you get from certain yogurts. It is all intended to promote digestive health and fill some gaps in the typical American nutritional equation.

“We’re using (pizza) as a Trojan horse, though a very transparent one, to put a healthy product in people’s hands and to get them some information (about healthy nutrition) too,” says Vitrano.

To make a large public impact, and to build a successful company, NAKEDPizza needs more stores than today’s single Uptown location. After a few years of research and development on the ground here in New Orleans, however, the company took on some very high-profile investors, including billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Further, it has been stoking social networking outlets to build brand awareness and to attract the franchise interest that’s now pouring in.

“Fast food is an understood and successful model; the logistics and delivery methods are all well-known,” Vitrano says. “We’ve studied that model and NAKEDPizza is 95 percent best practice. The other five percent is our different DNA, our transparency, our mission.”