Local restaurateurs get creative with PopUp Pizza restaurant
When life gives you a pizza oven, you should probably make pizzas. While waiting for a city permit to remove a wall between two existing commercial spaces, Vancouver restaurateurs Ben McGuire and Brian Mosby have opened PopUp Pizza (646 Kingsway). The business partners plan on opening a permanent restaurant that serves gourmet comfort food at this location and the one next door later this year, and in the short-term, have launched a pop-up pizzeria.
"We got a lease for two spaces, but in the meantime, waiting for development permits from the city, we needed to come up with a little bit of a revenue stream," McGuire told the Georgia Straight by phone. "This place was a pizza place and there’s a pizza oven, so we were like, 'Why don’t we just try to make really awesome pizzas?' We experimented for a week and then we just kind of went with it."
While McGuire and Mosby have spent 20 years each working at various Vancouver restaurants, including McGuire managing Lucy’s Eastside Diner and Mosby managing Vij’s, neither of them have professional experience making pizza.
"I haven’t worked in a kitchen since I was a kid basically, when I first started in the industry, and Brian as well has mostly been out front bartending and serving, so for us, it was just kind of fun and there’s kind of a no holds barred to making pizzas," McGuire said.
The result is six pizzas ($12 to $22), including a monthly feature, that use fresh, local ingredients to create mouth-watering flavour combinations. McGuire counts the Misfit—which is topped with rosemary wild-boar salami, pecorino Toscano, prosciutto, tomato sauce, basil leaves, red wine-and-baked-garlic-marinated Roma tomatoes, and Romano cheese—and the Sublime—this month’s feature pizza topped with white wine, garlic, cilantro, lobster, prawns, a peppery tomato sauce, parmesan, and Romano cheese—as his personal favourites. However, vegetarians will enjoy the roasted red pepper and goat chèvre-topped Pizie and the simple cheese and tomato-decorated Marge and Rita. The Hotel California, topped with wine-poached pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola, and Don Ho, which includes Re-Up smoked bacon and rum-marinated pineapple, complete the pizza menu.
"We decided to go with…artisan cheese only, so the folks at Benton Brothers [Fine Cheese] have fully helped us out," McGuire said. "We’ve geared a few of the pizzas around whatever cheese they thought would be good on pizza, so it was sort of a collaborative thing to create the best pizzas."
Also on the menu is the Lamburgini burger, a lamb and beef patty topped with buttermilk-fried onion rings, served with fries and garlic-mayo dipping sauce.
"For the future [restaurant] menu, we have spaghetti and meatballs…but making pizzas and spaghetti became a bit of a nightmare since we don’t have a chef until we do the expansion," McGuire said. "We actually had these meatballs ready, and I just decided one day, why don’t we make them into burgers and stuff them with cheese? So we stuff them with Gorgonzola and top them with fresh mozzarella, whatever we have."
McGuire and Mosby are also planning to add Sunday brunch by reservation only to their pop-up establishment, which they plan on running until October. Diners will be able to choose between three types of eggs benedict inspired by the three most popular pizzas—the Sublime, Pizie, and Misfit. For $25, the brunch comes with roasted red potatoes, salad, a fruit smoothie, and a mini dessert.
PopUp Pizza is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 5:30 p.m. with live DJ music on some evenings.
"We’re actually just taking a lot of input from customers," McGuire said about his first pop-up restaurant. "I don’t know, we’ve found a formula that works. Everyone seems to love it."
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