24 Jan, 2011 - Hot from the oven in just 4 minutes
Coal-fired baking and fresh ingredients set Tony Sacco’s pizzas apart
Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Pizza — featuring ovens that can reach 1,000 degrees and bake pizzas in about 4 minutes — has opened its first Michigan location in Novi and plans to open others in Lansing and Rochester this year. Its pizzas are hand-tossed in an exhibition-style kitchen, and all the toppings — as well as sandwich and salad ingredients — are fresh and prepped on site daily.
The restaurants have no fryers, no freezers and no microwaves.
“Our dough is made fresh every day,” says director of store operations John Keurajian. “We use Roma tomatoes for the sauce. We cut our own lettuce every day; we don’t use any pre-cut bagged ingredients. Everything comes in the door in cases. … Nothing is frozen; even our chicken wings are fresh, and we bake them in the oven.” Cofounder George Kurajian (no relation to John Keurajian) says fresh ingredients are only part of the reason Tony Sacco’s pies taste the way they do: The oven’s high heat also contributes by baking them quickly, so the toppings don’t dry out and lose flavor. Some of the ingredients are roasted before being added to the pizzas so they won’t release too much moisture during baking and make the pizza soggy.
The company started in and is headquartered in Florida, but its founders are Michiganders: Kurajian lives in Birmingham, Chuck Senatore is from Lansing and Tony Sacco — “He had the best name,” Kurajian says — is from the Monroe area. (Sacco has sold his interest in the business but allows the company to use his name.) They opened their first restaurant near Naples, Fla., because Kurajian owned property in the area and his parents live there part-time. Two other Tony Sacco’s have opened since then in south Florida, and one has opened near Indianapolis. The company says it also has contracts for eight franchises in the Chicago area.
The dining rooms are attractively finished with acid-washed floors, marble-topped tables and a handsome bar. The Novi location has two exterior glass walls and a patio, which will open this spring.
When I visited anonymously last weekend, I could see and taste the freshness of the toppings, used generously on both pizzas my table ordered.
Basic pies — homemade sauce, mozzarella and Romano cheeses, olive oil and fresh basil — are $10.50 (12 inch) and $14.50 (16 inch); add toppings for $1.50 and $2.50. Children’s pizzas start at $5.25. Specialty pies are $15.95 and $18.95. Appetizers and salads are $4-$9; sandwiches on hot, fresh-baked flatbread — baked to order from the pizza dough — are $7-$8.
(No reservations. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday. 42970 Grand River, east of Novi Road; 248-349-2625 or tonysaccos.com .)
BARGAINS IN BIRMINGHAM
Twenty of Birmingham’s best restaurants will participate in this winter’s Birmingham Restaurant Week — or weeks — scheduled Jan. 31-Feb. 4 and Feb. 7-11. The three-course prix fixe meals are $15 at lunch and $30 at dinner, not including beverages, tax and gratuity.
This year’s participants are 220, Big Rock Chop House, Café Via, Cameron’s Steakhouse, Chen Chow Brasserie, Elie’s Mediterranean Cuisine, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Forest Grill, Forté, Mitchell’s Fish Market, Peabody’s, Phoenicia, Quattro Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro, the Rugby Grille, Salvatore Scallopini, South, Streetside Seafood, Toast and Zazio’s.
Not all restaurants accept reservations; call to inquire because spaces can fill quickly. Some venues may not offer both lunch and dinner. See menus and details at enjoybirmingham.com/rw .
A FEW QUICK BITES
The Ann Arbor Art Center’s third annual Artini Martini Crawl, in which downtown’s hippest bars compete to create the most artful martini, is Feb. 18, starting at 7 p.m. This year’s contenders are Alley Bar, Bab’s Underground Lounge, the Black Pearl (the two-time champ), Café Felix, Café Habana, Jolly Pumpkin, Mélange and Vinology. Tickets are $45; visit annarborartcenter.org for details.
On Sunday — National Pie Day — the Achatz Handmade Pie Co. shops will offer $3 off all 10-inch pies from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can even pre-order your favorite kind at achatzpies.com . Free goodie bags and samples of pie, cookies, brownies and hot soup will also be available.
Olga’s Kitchen at 2075 S. Telegraph in Bloomfield Township is celebrating the grand reopening of its store this week. On Friday and Saturday, Original Olga sandwiches will be $1 for dine-in and carryout customers, and hourly drawings will be held for gift cards. (248-451-0500)
CONTACT SYLVIA RECTOR: 313-222-5026 OR SRECTOR@FREEPRESS.COM