We’re all up to speed on the fact that Travail, the nationally acclaimed molecular gastronomy garage band, has closed, right? Closed so that it could split into three new restaurants, namely a new, snazzy Travail, a cocktail bar and small plate spot called The Rookery, and a pizza spot, Pig Ate My Pizza. The first of those two are slated for a fall opening, but the first shoe drops now: Pig Ate My Pizza officially opens this Friday night at 5 p.m. Here’s everything I know, via a conversation with chef, founder, and co-owner Mike Brown, who was busy painting murals in his back hallway in such a way to unite iconic masterworks of the 20th century with pizza and stuff you want to look at when you’re drinking and waiting for a table in a back hallway.
First: Behold the new menu! It will be available a la carte, or in Travail-style big tasting meals to share. A la carte, you can order around a dozen pizzas, built upon a choice of three different crusts, including a classic Neapolitan style, a brioche deep dish, and a cracker-style crust in the style of Heggie’s classic bar pizza, “Because when you’re drunk and having a good time you like that cracker crust,” Brown explains. Pizzas will be cut, whenever possible, into the classic Minnesota checker-board style of squares, so get ready to explain that to your out-of-town friends. Sometimes a pizza will be topped with mussels, and come with a dipping sauce of mussel broth, and will not have cheese; this Pizza will be called the Mussels from Brussels. Pizza will also be made using special Travail-style innovations, for instance, the dough will be treated with seasoned oils before cooking, various sorts of paté or house-made sausage will work their way into the meat-lovers’ deep dish, and it will be routine to dress pizzas post-oven with sauces and fresh additions such as micro-greens. Some pizzas will go further: One called the Rafael has southwestern origins, and will feature chicken, and micro cilantro, and come to the table covered by a punch bowl-sized cloche filled with smoke, which will be removed at the table. But, that’s not all folks. Because there’s a new dining style! Here’s some big news: It seems that a la carte, pizza, and appetizer ordering is not really what this new Pig Ate My Pizza is all about, it’s really about family-style sharing meals, for two or four. Remember small plates? This is the opposite: Platters! Molecular-gastronomy inflected share-platters, designed for groups of four, mainly, but also available to groups of two. Final pricing isn’t quite finalized, but Brown says they’re thinking they’ll offer a four-course pizza dinner for two for about $40 or $45, you’ll start with a platter of beer snacks, charcuterie, salads, house-made burrata and other cheeses in the fresh mozzarella family, breads, and other little snacks, served on a big platter or on a large cedar plank, for sharing. “This is how they eat all over the world,” says Brown. “It’s so lame how we do it here: You get your own food, don’t touch my food, I got something great too bad for you—that’s why pizza’s so great. It doesn’t matter who you are, when there’s a pizza. Sit down we have pizza! Pizza pizza!” The second course will be a fresh pasta course, or perhaps a cheese bread, “the things you love at pizza places,” Brown says. The third course, several pizzas to share, brown imagines three pizzas for four people. Final course, a big dessert to share, either a dessert pizza with various components layered on a snickerdoodle crust (there’s that Minnesota part again) or a sort of banana split bomb, which draws inspiration from Grant Achatz’s famous dessert, but explodes at a pizza place near you. The basic dinner for four will cost around $80 (yes, that’s $20 a person); a blow-out affair of many more courses, for four people, will run $120 or so. So: Find some friends! And if you don’t have any, make some friends. And do it by Friday, because that’s when the next era in Minnesota pizza starts.