Baltimore-based Underground Pizza Company is bringing its Detroit-style pies to Olazzo Restaurant in downtown Silver Spring.
The MoCo Show reported in August that Underground Pizza Company was expanding into Montgomery County. After a successful run in Gaithersburg, they’re now moving their operations to Silver Spring.
“You know what they say; every ending is a new beginning! While we have had an amazing time at our run of pop-ups in Gaithersburg, the time has come to change it up a bit,” reads a post to UPC’s Instagram account. “Our Sunday MoCo pop up is moving to @olazzorestaurant in Silver Spring this week.”
According to Wikipedia, Detroit-style pizza is a “rectangular pizza with a thick crust that is crispy and chewy. It is traditionally topped with Wisconsin brick cheese, then tomato sauce layered on top of the other toppings (rather than directly onto the dough). This style of pizza is often baked in rectangular steel trays designed for use as automotive drip pans or to hold small industrial parts in factories. The style was developed during the mid-twentieth century in Detroit before spreading to other parts of the United States in the 2010s. The dish is one of Detroit’s iconic local foods.”
For UPC co-founder Evan Weinstein, who also organizes Baltimore’s annual Moonrise Festival, the cancellation of concerts and large-scale gatherings due to COVID-19 left him and other event planners thinking about what’s next.
“I have a business that I’ve had for fifteen years,” Weinstein told Baltimore Magazine in September. “It’s shut down. I just had a baby; I had no plan.”
While stuck in quarantine, Weinstein began making Detroit-style pies from his home kitchen and selling to friends, but then word spread like wildfire, and soon business exploded. “All of a sudden, I’m selling out of dough from my house,” he recalled.
He connected with local chef Patrick Morrow, who helped open several restaurants in the Baltimore area, including Abbey Burger Bistro, Bluegrass Tavern, and Meli. Through Morrow’s experience and connections, UPC moved into commercial kitchen space to prep the pizzas.
Morrow told Baltimore Magazine that, in his experience as a chef for more than 20 years, the reason that most restaurants fail often has to do with owners not being able to afford rent. Ghost kitchens allow aspiring chefs to focus less on keeping the lights on and more on purchasing quality ingredients.
“It makes sense now more than ever before,” Morrow said. “You don’t need a physical storefront; you don’t need a traditional sign on the door. There are other ways to order now.”
Ghost kitchens have been increasing in the area in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Third-party delivery companies don’t just encourage businesses to launch virtual restaurants—in some cases, they facilitate their creation by providing data on consumer spending habits, according to Washington City Paper food editor Laura Hayes. “Virtual restaurants are often a result of direct engagement between Uber Eats and restaurant partners,” a Uber representative told City Paper in July. Uber Eats even has an employee, Kristen Adamowski, dedicated to virtual restaurant development.
UPC’s menu has over a dozen different pies, including a vegan option. Still, according to their Instagram post, they’re bringing a couple of new menu items to the Olazzo pop-up: “We’re going to be bringing some new pie concepts including a brunch pizza and a Quattro Stagioni style pizza.”
This week’s pop-up will be running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Olazzo, and they will post future pop-up announcements on their social media accounts. Customers can place pick-up orders on UPC’s website.
Graphic: Underground Pizza Company/Instagram