At a recent grand opening of FoundationForForm's newest mixed-use project, the North Park Post Office Lofts, the party was catered by Tribute Pizza, a local pop-up run by chef/founder Matthew Lyons that was first founded in 2013. As they munched on slices from his mobile wood-fired oven, attendees likely didn't know that it was also a restaurant preview; Lyons just signed a lease to open Tribute's first brick-and-mortar in the space.
A San Diego native with 12 years in the pizza industry, his experience includes eight months in Kenya where he helped to develop, train staff and launch the Nairobi flagship of 360 Degrees Artisan Pizza. It's a similar concept to Tribute, whose mission statement is to "create and recreate the world's best pizzas"; Lyons counts James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco of the famed Pizzeria Bianco as a friend and mentor and will use Bianco DiNapoli organic crushed tomatoes as the foundation for his sauce.
Though many operators were interested in the 3,200-square-foot historical building, which features windows on all sides and a barrel vault ceiling, FoundationForForm's Mike Burnett told Eater that Lyons, a North Park resident, won him over with his "down-to-earth personality and passion for his craft."
Lyons will house-make fennel sausage and source local produce for his California-inspired wood fired pizzas, which will be cooked in a custom made 91-square-foot Renato oven (known as the best pizza oven made in the U.S.) housed at the center of the restaurant's exhibition kitchen. At the heart of the menu are his red and white pizzas, ranging from $12 to $16, that include Soppresata with mozzarella, ricotta and honey and the Mushroom Bianca topped with garlic-sauteed mushrooms and three cheeses. There will also be salads and appetizers, plus wood-fired meats, veggies and oven-baked focaccia sandwiches at lunch.
Slated to open by Spring 2016, the family-friendly eatery will serve beer and wine and seat 140 inside, plus more on an adjacent patio. While the restaurant is under construction, Lyons says that he'll ramp up his pop-up schedule to bring Tribute Pizza to local breweries and restaurants.