What started as a one-man pop-up has evolved into a new soaring 3,200-square-foot restaurant that's currently seeing soft opening success in North Park. Launched in 2013 by local chef and pizzaphile Matthew Lyons, Tribute Pizza first popped up in bars and coffee houses, serving up Lyons' "Neo-Neapolitan"-style pizzas inspired by some of the country's best-known pies.
A consulting gig in Africa came next, where he helped to develop an artisan pizza concept in Kenya. And last fall, Lyons decided to open his own brick-and-mortar restaurant, signing on as the anchor tenant in FoundationForForm's mixed-use North Park Post Office complex.
The large corner space, laid out by Lyons' mother, an interior designer, has every possible seating configuration, from communal tables, high bar seats and cozy booths to traditional tables and banquette seating. And Tribute Pizza has graduated from a portable pop-up electric oven to a custom-made, top-of-the-line Renato pizza oven, a massive 91-square-foot wood-fueled hearth that sits at the center of the restaurant.
Pizzas here spend a little extra time in the oven, resulting in thin crust pies that have more structure and crispness than its Neapolitan counterparts. The seasonal menu pays tribute to iconic pizza styles and famed pizzerias, from Brooklyn's Paulie Gee's to Una Pizza Napolitana in San Franciso; there's also an homage to one of Lyons' mentors, Chris Bianco of the legendary Pizzeria Bianco and Tijuana's own Tacos El Gordo, which tops a pizza with housemade al pastor sausage, panela cheese, wood roasted corn and poblano peppers, and Mexican cream.
Lyons and his kitchen team, including head chef Brian La Bonte, will soon make their own mozzarella and someday expand with a house charcuterie program. They'll also use the wood fired oven to extend into entrees, including roasted chicken and a bone-in pork chop. Now open for dinner, Tribute will eventually add lunch service, serving sandwiches on their house-baked focaccia.