Photo By Eliesa Johnson
Southwest Minneapolis—pizza capital of the state or pizza capital of the world? Whichever you thought it was, the already-hot pizza scene that includes Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, Broders', Arezzo, Mozza Mia, Lake Harriet Pizza, and more, is poised to get even white-hotter sometime before Thanksgiving when the farmers' market sensation Red Wagon Pizza drops a brick-and-mortar locale into the former In Season spot across from Café Maude near the corner of 54th and Penn.
Here are the deets: Peter Campbell has been making pizza since he was 2 years old in his family’s house in Detroit. When he became a grownup and started working in real estate in Minnesota he kept making pizzas with his own children. One day his children’s parochial school, Carondelet, in Linden Hills threw a fundraiser. Campbell and his wife made their family pizzas for it and everyone went nuts. Steven Brown, the inspirational chef behind Tilia, even tasted the pizzas, and, in the manner of American success stories said, "Kid, you gotta let your star shine!" He insisted Campbell sell pizzas at the Linden Hills farmers' market. The crowd went wild.
Campbell went looking for a commercial kitchen so he could do more than farmers' markets, but they cost too much money, so Brown said something like, "You can use my commercial kitchen for free! And I’ll help you write your business plan!" Then a bunch more stuff happened that’s boring and involves the passage of time and banks (picture a bunch of calendar pages falling on the floor). And then, just like that, Campbell signed the lease for the former In Season space as well as the former yarn shop next door. He knocked out the wall between them, bought a can of paint and some other stuff—and now he’s fixing to open!
Red Wagon Pizza will be a little more than a pizza place, though it will be a pizza place. I say more because it will have a bona fide restaurant chef de cuisine with real cooking skills, namely Sean Little, who was part of the opening crew at Tilia, and also worked at Travail and Pig Ate My Pizza. Why do they need a real chef in a pizza joint? To use the pizza ovens to cook the other things Campbell has in mind—like bread, vegetables, and proteins from whole poultry to large meat roasts. Campbell also wants to use the new spot to make pizza crusts with heirloom flours, like that made from Turkey Red wheat.
Also planned: They’ll be open every day from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and will probably eventually open even earlier on the weekends, to serve brunch. They’ll have around 30 tap beers (local and European, mostly), a wine list of boutique specialties developed by local wine star Chris Brink of Bourget Imports, around 60 seats indoors, and maybe another 30 in summer out on the patio. Oh, and they’re hoping to open by late October, but you know how these things are, Campbell told me he’ll be more comfortable if you all keep a date in mind of ‘sometime before Thanksgiving.’
So, should Pizzeria Lola get nervous, with Red Wagon opening a mere handful of blocks away? “I love what she’s doing,” Campbell says. “She does an amazing job. I think we’ll be a little different in what we’re doing for food, but our biggest competitor in the market is Lola. And competition rises all boats. Obviously southwest Minneapolis is becoming the go-to mecca for pizza, and now I quit my [former real estate] job and it's full bore and we’re getting after it.”
Will they have to change the name of that particular chunk of Minneapolis from Armatage to Pizzapolis? Stay tuned.