Kansas Citians are, in a way, pizza agnostic. We’ve got our favorites, but we’re willing to welcome thin and thick crust alike with open mouths. So, we may be the city equivalent of a soft opening for a relatively new pizza concept: Pizzeria Locale.
The Kansas City Star reported earlier this week that Pizzeria Locale — a pizza shop backed by Chipotle — is scheduled to open this summer in the former Pizza Manifesto space (505 W 75th Street) in Waldo. Since the word, ‘Chipotle,’ tends to create a frenzy, we figured we’d offer up a quick primer on what you can expect from Pizzeria Locale (pronounced lo-cal-eh) while you wait for the new pizza spot to arrive.
It’s not Chipotle. It makes for easy headlines to write that something is the ‘Chipotle’ of X. It also helps the reader know once they step inside a building what’s going to happen: you head to the counter with symmetrical meal components in metal containers (see a ‘day in the life’ at Pizzeria Locale here). The thinking is you just swap out the metal cladding for white tiles and you’re ready to roll out across the country.
Not so fast. While we may see this spot through the lens of Chipotle (in fact, a burrito outpost is only a few doors down), it’s worth discussing the reason this concept exists. Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, a James Beard Award winner (who you may have seen on Top Chef Masters), and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey are the co-owners of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado.
The success of that Italian concept is what allowed them to open the first Pizzeria Locale in 2011 — a sit-down pizza restaurant with a custom-built oven. It’s also, what apparently turned Chipotle CEO and founder Steve Ells from a regular customer, into a potential business partner. The nearly three-year plan to transform the sit-down experience into a fast casual model (the first opened in Denver in May 2013, a second followed that October) was well documented by Eater last March.
It’s worth looking at Pizzeria Locale as a pizza shop with a similar ethos to Chipotle — intentional and well-marketed sourcing of ingredients, no freezers (which requires a smaller amount of square footage and means everything is fresh), a dedicated focus on efficiency (they invented a pizza oven to crank out Neapolitan-style pies in 2 minutes) and an understanding that parents of toddlers want a drink with dinner (there’s tap wine and craft beer at the Denver spot), even if there are no tablecloths.
As for the pizza itself, Pizzeria Locale serves 11-inch, Neapolitan-style pies, which means thin crust that is cooked quickly at a high temperature. The wheat for the crust is Edison wheat, ground on-site and turned into dough in a temperature-controlled room, which as co-founder Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson explains in this video, “reproduces the exact temperature and humidity you’d find in Naples on a beautiful spring day.” The pizzeria in Denver also added a new gluten-free option earlier this year.
Beyond pizza, the restaurant’s buddino — rich, thick butterscotch pudding — and saltimboca (a warm, sliced pizza dough pocket filled with chocolate hazelnut spread) has people saving room for dessert. [Watch how they’re made here.]
Pizzeria Locale is hooking into two recent trends in Kansas City — an influx of Colorado-based concepts over the past several years and fast casual pizza shops that focus on do-it-yourself, individual-sized pies. This will be the third location for the fast casual iteration of Pizzeria Locale and the first outside of Denver. Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar arrived on the Plaza last year, following the same path as Noodles & Company and Smashburger.
With pizza, everyone from chains — Pie Five (which opened a Westport outpost in November) — to the locally owned Topp’d Pizza (The Pitch noted its arrival at 3934 Rainbow this week) — are vying for a slice of your wallet. Nobody quite owns the space yet. Some will thrive and a few, like Pizza Manifesto, won’t make it. You’ll get to decide where Pizzeria Locale falls in the local pizza canon this summer.[Images via Facebook: Pizzeria Locale]