Over a year ago the partners behind Pie-Sci, a creative pizza pop-up operating out of Woodbridge Pub, announced they would finally be breaking out into a nearby storefront. At the time, creators Jeremy Damaske and AJ Manoulian had aimed to open in May 2014. Now, Damaske tells Eater construction on the brick and mortar Pie-Sci is finally underway. "It's been a very long road," he says, but with city zoning finally approved for a space at 5163 Trumbull St., Damaske expects the restaurant will be ready for customers by September 2015.
The pop-up, which brings inventive pizza creations to the eclectic Woodbridge neighborhood, was inspired by Damaske's favorite pizzeria, Vinnie's, in Brooklyn, New York. Vinnie's is known for a rotating menu with unusual pizzas and innovative combinations of ingredients, he says. Like Pie-Sci's creations, each Vinnie's pie is dubbed with a clever name. While he says he's never "ripped-off" one of their recipes, Damaske says, the style, naming scheme, and vegan options found at Pie-Sci are based off the Vinnie's model.
Lots of time and experimentation has gone into the Pie-Sci crust, says Damaske. For him, dough is the most important factor in producing a pleasant eating experience. "I took a while to perfect my dough recipe, trying out different flours, and just having a pizza that's not too thick and not too thin-a nice slice that you can pick up and it doesn't start drooping and falling down and everything runs off," he says. "One of my favorite things to do is to take my pizza home when I'm working with it and try it the next day and be like, ‘How does this hold up?'"
With the right crust, Damaske maintains that one can add just about anything to a pizza from kimchi to peaches to shrimp. Featured items at the Woodbridge pop-up are usually compiled from the pub's seasonal list of ingredients. During the summer, when shrimp hit the menu, Damaske and Manoulian introduced Skrimp City—a pie made with garlic, tabasco, vodka, sautéed onions, balsamic, lime, and shrimp marinade. For another pie, the pair did an homage to the popular television show Breaking Bad, by cooking up a Bacon Bad pizza. When naming their creations, the crew at Pie-Sci often solicits help from friends. Some of the more inventive names include the Lil' Kimchi, The Devas-Tater, and Drop the Beet.
Now three and a half years into business, the pop-up sells approximately 100 pizzas every Sunday using the pub's restaurant equipment. While business is doing exceptionally well, Damaske sees room for improvement.
From the beginning this storefront project has stayed within the "Woodbridge Pub family." Pub owner Jim Geary, a noted Detroit developer and preservationist owns the space that Pie-Sci will be leasing and was also a priceless resource of support and information for Damaske. Several years ago, when the pop-up idea was in its infancy, Geary offered Damaske a Sunday evening spot at the pub. "We tried it for a while and it worked out," Damaske says. "We've kind of perfected it now to the point where we're doing a very significant amount of business each Sunday night."
Geary's mother has also been helping Damaske and Manoulian with the design and layout for the pizzeria.
While there were challenges initially in terms of getting the space zoned, the crew behind Pie-Sci remained dedicated to staying in the Woodbridge area. "It's one of the best spots for us and what has felt right. We've waited so long already for it that there's no sense in picking up and [going elsewhere]."
Pie-Sci pops up every Sunday at the Woodbridge Pub from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with the rotating menu and construction news.