After years of delays, some people thought it would never happen.
But Pizza Dads, the newest pizza shop from the minds behind Pizza Brain, rolled into Brewerytown on 29th and Girard on April 1, taking a central storefront location that could make it a crown jewel of the rapidly developing neighborhood.
“We’re almost like a joke in Brewerytown that kept getting funnier over time,” said Joe Hunter, head chef of Pizza Brain and Pizza Dads, who also lives in the neighborhood. “And I’m so thankful we got to open like this on April Fools’ Day, because I knew how much of a joke it was.”
Word that the expansion of Fishtown’s famous Pizza Brain would show up in the former Hat Shoppe at 29th and Girard started circulating some three years ago. In the interval, rumors spread that it might never open.
Now that Pizza Dads is finally here, Hunter is excited about the chance to do something different. He and fellow co-owners Michael Carter and Ryan Anderson wanted to do something different than the original Pizza Brain, known for housing the world’s first pizza museum.
“We thought, ‘People know us for our pizza,’” Hunter said. “This next place could just be a really great pizza shop.”
He said he was inspired by visiting popular neighborhood pizzerias around New Jersey and wanted to celebrate the concept of the old school East Coast pizza shop.
“It’s the most American thing, like the scenes in ‘Daria’ when they go to hang out at the pizza shop, have a slice and a soda and are just chilling,” he said. “That’s our culture and I want to celebrate that, the pizza shop.”
With unpretentious laminate wood tables like a classic ’90s pizza joint and a geometric design aesthetic, Pizza Dads is like the comfy pizza parlor of your childhood, but with gourmet masters crafting pies in stone-lined gas deck ovens.
“We just wanted to create this ’70s vibe,” Hunter said. “A place where you say, ‘Yo dad, give me some cheese from the back.’”
Based on an ethos of doing one simple thing really well, Hunter said the menu at Pizza Dads has special touches like pizza slices with the flavors of an entire cheesesteak, and house-made pizza sauce cooked up with fresh basil and oregano.
Why the delays in opening? Like many business ventures, the project had its fair share of funding issues, delays in construction and headaches with licensing approvals, Hunter said.
Pizza Brain’s co-founder Brian Dwyer also departed the company during that timeframe. Dwyer moved to Washington state where he is working on a documentary about his experiences treating his cancer-stricken son with cannabis oil. He has spoken about his division with his former partners in the past, saying rifts formed over the future of the business and his focus on his son. But Dwyer said he wishes Pizza Dads all the best.
“In a very indirect way, I’m honored by this second spot opening. I consider it a very loose homage, in a strange way. I am very much a dad, after all. And I will always love pizza, no matter where my feet may tread,” he said from Washington. “I hope Breweryown is going to hoist it up on its shoulders and celebrate it.”
Hunter said the partners just had different visions, including around expanding the business.
“Brian left to pursue other interests,” he said. “When we pursued the Pizza Dads opportunity in 2014, he was really vocal that he did not want to be part of a new business. He was not interested.”
The shop’s name got changed along the way too, from the original idea, “Uncle Pizza Dads,” because during the construction process in 2015, another pizzeria, Uncle Nick’s Pizza, opened up halfway down Girard Avenue.
Uncle Nick’s owner Harry Saritsoglou said he didn’t know about plans for Pizza Dads when he opened his shop, but was happy to have them join the neighborhood. “I’d tell them good luck, and I hope we’re all successful,” he said.