Sq. Pie Guys brings Detroit-style pizza to Oakland


A spread of dishes from Square Pie Guys in Oakland. Photo: Sarah Han
Sq. Pie Guys opens on March 1 with Detroit-style pizzas, salads, wings — and sizzling rooster sandwiches and cocktails to come back quickly. Picture: Sarah Han

A New York Occasions article’s headline from earlier this month learn: “Pizza was the Restaurant Hero of 2020,” and the gist of it was that, regardless of a catastrophic 12 months for the restaurant business, most pizza places did just fine. One thing a couple of dish that may be a consolation meals, that may simply feed a number of individuals, and that does nicely in transit made it an apparent alternative for a pandemic.

Marc Schechter and Danny Stoller didn’t want the article to inform them that.

Schechter and Stoller are the house owners of Sq. Pie Guys, a Detroit-style pizza restaurant that opened within the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco in July 2019. The enterprise did nicely sufficient that they’re opening a second location in Oakland on Monday, March 1.  The brand new Sq. Pie Guys is in Previous Oakland, taking up the high-ceilinged property that the majority lately housed Benchmark Pizzeria, and Desco earlier than that.

Interior of Square Pie Guys in Oakland.
Co-owner Danny Stoller (far proper). Sq. Pie Guys inherited the brick pizza oven from the earlier Italian eating places, Desco and Benchmark Pizzeria, earlier than it. Picture: Sarah Han

On condition that each males dwell in Oakland, opening a location on this facet of the bay was at all times a part of the plan. And whereas getting this restaurant up and operating is foremost of their minds, the duo says that additional growth is certainly a part of their longtime plan.

Discovered on the nook of Washington and Ninth streets, Sq. Pie Guys’ new restaurant has a slender sidewalk patio and entry to a further 1,200 sq. toes outside space, the place they ultimately plan to construct a beer backyard, however Schechter and Stoller stated they’re beginning with takeout and supply solely, for now. Inside, they’ve designed the doorway with COVID-safety in thoughts. There are two clear, partitioned pick-up home windows (that may ultimately be eliminated when the pandemic ends) — one for patrons, the opposite for delivery-app drivers to alleviate crowding on the entrance. Little else has been modified within the area, apart from a contemporary coat of paint and a blue neon pizza slice hanging amongst vegetation on a wall.

Marc Schechter, co-owner of Square Pie Guys, wears a mask and holds up a hand to say hello.
Sq. Pie Guys co-owner Marc Schechter stands on the ordering space simply contained in the door. Picture: Sarah Han

Sq. Pie Guys may be credited for elevating the profile of Detroit-style pizza within the Bay Space, although Schechter is fast to level out that Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Seaside was seemingly the primary to introduce the model right here.

Schechter intently watches pizza developments on Instagram — it’s what made his own pizza pop-up acquire prominence earlier than he opened Sq. Pie Guys — so he figured it may do nicely right here.

“I may see this pattern taking place nationwide, however there was a niche right here in San Francisco,” he stated.

For the unfamiliar, Detroit-style pizza is an oblong, pan-baked pizza with cheddar cheese baked into the outer crust. A sure alchemy occurs when the cheese on the perimeters hits the new metallic pan, forming a crunchy texture and taste harking back to an excellent grilled cheese.

For many who prefer to geek out on dough, Stoller stated the largest distinction between a New York-style pizza dough and theirs is the hydration stage. Sq. Pie Guys provides extra water to its dough, which creates a crust that’s fluffier and lighter, he stated.

That fluffiness and lightness may be deceiving. Whereas at first look, Sq. Pie’s pizza seems to be extra like deep-dish within the quantity of cheese and toppings, one chunk instantly dispels you of that notion. Someway, the crust manages to retain its crunchiness regardless of the hefty toppings on every pie.

Which, within the case of takeout and supply, works nicely.

“The benefit with an even bigger crust is that it reheats higher and stays hotter longer,” stated Schechter, although “when our pizza sits within the field too lengthy, that crispy cheddar edge saves us. For those who depart it out room temperature, it stays.”

A slice of Square Pie Guys' 6x8 pepperoni pizza. Photo: Sarah Han
A slice of Sq. Pie Guys’ 6×8 pepperoni pizza. The pizza will get its title as a result of an entire pie (made up for 4 items) is topped with a complete of 48 slices of pepperoni. Picture: Sarah Han

A humorous a part of their origin story is that neither Schechter nor Stoller are from Detroit. Stoller is from Seattle, and Schechter grew up in a household of pizza obsessives on Lengthy Island, NY. At first, Schechter continued his household’s obsession by making pizzas as a interest whereas he labored in tech. However after a sure level, he started moonlighting on weekends at PizzaHacker after which Pizzeria Delfina in Burlingame. He then began doing his personal pizza pop-up in a bar within the metropolis.

In the meantime, Stoller had labored in eating places as a youth, however had moved on to work at Culinary Edge, a consulting firm that helps companies develop their culinary ideas. Then Schechter and Stoller labored an occasion collectively, making pizza, in fact.

They discovered that they had related values, in wanting to supply a residing wage for his or her workforce members in addition to positively impacting their native communities, too (They’ve already recognized a number of Oakland nonprofits to which they’ll be donating a few of Sq. Pie Guys’ proceeds, and most of the pizzas they made whereas coaching workers have been later delivered to close by homeless encampments and group fridges). A number of workforce members have come from coaching packages supporting individuals who have had substance abuse points.

“They make work enjoyable and are actually within the trenches with you,” stated Louise Tang, Sq. Pie Guys’ basic supervisor on the SOMA restaurant who has been coaching the workers on the new location. “Some house owners aren’t there very a lot and actually don’t actually know what’s actually happening. I additionally love how we’re on an even bigger mission to assist each our communities in addition to our staff.”

Sq. Pie Guys workforce, from left, Marc Schechter, Yahaira Santini, Louise Tang and Danny Stoller. Picture: Sarah Han

Yahaira Santini is the final supervisor within the Oakland location. She started her restaurant profession working at McDonald’s, the place she labored her method as much as supervisor earlier than shifting on to different locations.

“Her profession began with pure grit,” stated Stoller. “She makes me actually proud to have somebody like her on our workforce, versus the 21-year-olds straight out of culinary faculty who run their knives alongside their arms,” referring to a standard apply amongst sure cooks to show their knife — and bravado — is as sharp as a razor.

There’s much more that could possibly be stated in regards to the workforce and their values, however extra should be stated in regards to the meals.

Whereas Sq. Pie Guys provides extra conventional toppings, classics like pepperoni (The 6×8) and mushroom (How Mush-Room?), a few of its mixtures can’t be discovered wherever else. The Beet-An-Esca ($23) has beet cream and anchovy-garlic oil, for instance, whereas the JLIN ($23), named after basketball participant Jeremy Lin, provides lemon-garlic ricotta cream and Inexperienced Goddess Caesar dressing. Every pie comes with 4 giant slices that might feed two to 4 individuals, relying on their starvation. Any of Sq. Pie Guys’ pizzas may be made gluten-free or with vegan cheese.

A Square Pie Guys' How-Mushroom Detroit-style pie. Photo: Sarah Han
A Sq. Pie Guys’ How Mush-Room? is topped with roasted mushrooms, garlic ricotta cream, grana cheese and parsley. Picture: Sarah Han

Their salads are boldly-flavored. Sq. Pie Guys’ hottest salad, the Chilled Bowl Salad ($12), has important heft with Gigante beans within the combine together with kale, shredded Romaine lettuce and shaved broccoli, cherry tomatoes and spicy sunflower seeds in a sundried tomato French dressing.

However pizza and salads aren’t all Sq. Pie Guys serves. As time went on in SOMA, Stoller seen that whereas the pizza ovens have been always cranking out pies, the fryers and flattop (to make two kinds of wings and fried Brussels sprouts) have been fully underutilized. Because the shutdown loomed, Stoller and Schechter determined to develop the Sq. Pie Guys’ menu past pizza. Impressed by a latest journey to Yosemite, and the truth that consolation meals was in excessive demand, they created the Hetchy’s Hots idea, a model throughout the Sq. Pie Guys model, introducing a sizzling fried rooster sandwich to the repertoire. Three p.c of the proceeds from the Hetchy’s Hots model go to charity.

The Oakland restaurant will open with out fried rooster sandwiches on the menu, however Stoller and Schechter plan to deliver Hetchy’s Hots to Oakland within the coming days, with a menu mirroring the San Francisco choices. There are 5 variations of the rooster sandwich, with taste profiles starting from a Mexican-inspired one with frijoles unfold, cilantro cream and taco seasoning; one with Szechuan spice and sushi mayo; and one with Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos and contemporary jalapeño slices, the namesake sandwich, which we tried. Sq. Pie Guys dunks the rooster in spicy oil, however some prospects made it recognized that it wasn’t wherever almost as sizzling as they would favor, so now Sq. Pie Guys provides an choice for a spicier oil with extra Szechuan pepper and extra-hot cayenne.

Square Pie Guys' Hetchy's Hot fried chicken sandwich on a plate with Flamin' Hot Cheetos and jalapeños.
Sq. Pie Guys’ Hetchy’s Sizzling fried rooster model isn’t on the opening menu, however shall be within the coming days. Picture: Sarah Han

The presence of the Cheetos on our large Hetchy’s Sizzling sandwich ($14.18) induced my husband to comment that this could have been precisely what he would have needed to eat at 1:30 within the morning when he was a university pupil. Now that we’re a bit older, we every ate 1 / 4 of it in a single sitting (together with sharing the Chilled Bowl Salad).

Sq. Pie Guys’ burger is one other well-loved menu merchandise within the metropolis, however Oakland diners may even have to attend for it to look on the new restaurant. A good thing about the brand new location is its devoted proofing room for the pizza dough, however there’s no flattop right here, and it’ll take a while earlier than Schechter and Stoller do any kitchen renovations.

The SOMA restaurant serves beer and wine, however the Oakland location will have the ability to serve cocktails too, that’s as soon as the Alcoholic Beverage Management approves its license, hopefully by finish of week. Given that the majority diners taking meals to go might decide to buy booze at markets to combine at residence, the cocktail menu shall be competitively priced, with every drink packaged for both two or 4 individuals and containing one thing particular that solely Sq. Pie Guys may supply.

Square Pie Guys Bianco di Mary cocktail kit. Photo: Sarah Han
Cocktails, just like the Bianco Di Mary cocktail package, shall be obtainable as soon as Sq. Pie Guys will get its liquor license. Picture: Sarah Han

The Bianco Di Mary ($35), Sq. Pie Guys’ tackle a Bloody Mary, incorporates the tomatoes it makes use of for its pizza sauce. The four-person serving even comes with a spice combine to rim your glass and skewers with mozzarella, olives and a pepperoni slice for every glass. The Daring Customary ($30) mixes bourbon and Angostura bitters with one other ingredient that makes it onto one in all its signature pies — Mike’s Sizzling Honey.

Different pizza spots providing the Detroit-style have emerged within the East Bay throughout the final 12 months, however Sq. Pie Guys units the usual excessive. Bay Space Detroit natives have discovered a style of residence on the San Francisco location, and people within the East Bay shall be glad to have a spot even nearer.

Sq. Pie Guys is open for takeout and supply through third-party apps from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday by Saturday; 11 a.m. to eight p.m., Sunday.

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