The award-winning crew behind Kitchen Table Restaurants (Pizzeria Farina, Ask For Luigi, Pourhouse) have just secured Sean Heather’s old Rainier Provisions location on the southwest corner of Carrall and Cordova in Gastown. With it, they’re aiming to launch an unpretentious new counter service restaurant concept called Joe Pizza.
Co-owner/Chef J.C. Poirier walked me through the idea earlier this week, explaining how the 50 seater will be very different from, say, Main Street’s popular Pizzeria Farina. “We’ll be doing a Roman style of pizza called ‘al taglio’, which is very different from traditional Neapolitan.” It’s similar to Roman-style Pane Romano – the rectangular pret-a-manger stuff you can get locally at Sciué. The fast food is cut using scissors and sold by the slice or the entire rectangle (al taglio translating literally as “by the cut”) but the dough is different (local organic flour, no commercial yeast), the oven is different (a German monster with four decks and a ceramic interior – similar to those in the back of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, only much smaller), the thickness is different (about 3/4 inch), and the chew is different (almost crispy).
Poirier explored Rome to really put his finger on what he was looking for, singling out – to me at least – the al taglio at chef Gabriel Bonci’s famed Pizzarium, which Lucky Peach detailed in the video below…
Hungry yet? Yeah, me too. That dough looks so good!
Poirier also tuned to the highly regarded baking frequencies of Marc Vetri in Philadelphia and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, gathering every bit of intel and inspiration he could. And to see the vision through to fruition he’s tapped Tartine alumni Annabelle Choi, who is currently baking her way through a pop-up residency at The Pie Shoppe in Chinatown. She will be Joe Pizza’s Chef de Cuisine. I’ve yet to talk to her about the new restaurant, but I’m pretty familiar with her baking. She’s awesome.
Poirier tells me that they’re looking at doing six different pizzas and a few salads. They’re also playing with an optional gluten-free dough. The goal is to keep everything simple: “The menu will be very focused, very minimal.” In addition to pizza, they’ll be making their own soft serve ice cream (including a vegan option), pouring three beers and two wines on tap (possibly old school pitchers), and developing a signature juice with the guys at The Juice Truck.
Casey Burgess and Arnold Chan of Ply Architecture are on board to do the interior design (they just finished the build at Juke Fried Chicken), which Poirier says will be very different from the current aesthetic. It’s a beautiful old building with great bones, and I’m excited to see this corner of it getting a refresh. To get an idea of what they’ll be working with, the gallery below shows what it has looked like since February 2013 as Rainier Provisions.