In April 2020, near the beginning of the pandemic-induced shutdown, Kevin Gist was temporarily laid-off from his position at well-known local pizzeria where he had worked for the past 18 years. Like so many others facing uncertainty or unemployment, Gist spent his downtime experimenting his home kitchen. Although he’d spent nearly 20 years making New York-style pizza, he’d never cooked or tasted Detroit pizza, a typically-rectangular pie with a thicker crust, crisp and chewy with melted cheese, that is proliferating way beyond the Midwest.
So Gist bought a classic Detroit pizza pan, a deep metal pan with high sides, and starting baking up small batches of pizza. He started by giving some away to friends but word and interest quickly spread and Gist soon found himself running a weekly pop-up via Instagram under the moniker TNT Pizza, selling pizzas on a donation-only basis. In the process Gist says, “I fell back in love with making pizza”.
Eventually, he joined forces with friend and fellow pizza industry veteran Joseph Ghafouri Wehrly and in October 2020 the pair began looking for a storefront to permanently house the pizza business. They found an ideal turnkey restaurant spot in the East Village on 14th Street at the base of the Alpha Project, a residence for homeless people, veterans, and those with special needs. The space, originally designed as a pizzeria, was previously used as part of a training program.
Gist and Wehrly hope to open TNT Pizza in the space by the end of September. There’s some indoor seating and a patio, but they’ll likely start with pickup service only. The sourdough-based pizza menu will include Detroit-style slices and whole pies that were a hit from the pop-up, including the House Classic with sausage and pepperoni, the Roni Honey with cup-and-char pepperoni and habanero honey, and the Baked Tater with tater tots, cheddar, and bacon. There will also be several varieties of New York pizza, and a lesser-seen style called bar or tavern pizza, which features a very thin, caramelized crust. Gist says they’ll also serve salads and maybe beer and wine in the future.
TNT Pizza. 550 14th Street, East Village.
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