Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Independent Pizzeria finds its niche

I was surprised to discover when looking at the blog’s statistics earlier this week that my posting on the opening of The Independent Pizzeria was the most read story ever, with over 500 reads to date. This must be a neighborhood that really likes pizza! So I decided I ought to live up to the promise I’d made to MPB readers that I would get the inside story on the new pizza joint from its owner/manager/pizza maker, Tom Siegel.

Early this evening, therefore, I moseyed on down to the pizzeria (located at 4235 E. Madison Street) to get the scoop. [Before I go any further with this posting, however, let me just interrupt the flow to say that while I was on the premises, I just happened to buy a pizza (the Syracuse), and it was only the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life—and I’ve been to Italy!]

Now where was I? Anyway, the place was not packed when I arrived a little before six, but doing a brisk business. There are only five tables, a few bar stools and some couch seating, so it will be an intimate place during the winter months. Tom told me that Wednesday night had been the pizzeria’s best night ever. The place has not even been open two weeks, but the word is obviously spreading.

There are seven pizzas on the initial menu (Queen, Twin Peaks, Beta, Pepperoni, Norwalk, and The Stevedore are the other six, with “Mama Lil” providing the peppers). The pizzas are all twelve inchers. In addition, there’s a salad option, two different selections of antipasti, and a more than sufficient number of wine and beer choices.

Tom was too busy to be interrogated in detail by me (Question: “Any glitches noticed so far?” Answer: “I will have to think about that and get back to you.” I told him things must be going okay if he can’t remember any major snafus). That's Tom making pizzas in the photos above, by the way.

Luckily for this piece (which is intended to provide some color, after all) I had quizzed Tom by email earlier about how he happens to be making pizzas in the ‘hood. Pretend this is a live interview:

ME: Why another pizza place in Madison Park?
TOM: I love to talk about, look at, smell, make, and eat food. In the spring of 2002 I experienced my first Neapolitan pizza. It was at a little kiosk in the heart of Naples. it was a six inch pizza with sauce, a dollop of cheese and a basil leave. It was ethereal. From that moment my mission was to open a small pizzeria. When Impromptu closed, my friend Fred from Madison Cellars stopped by my previous job to tell me about the space. Merijo, the previous manager at Impromptu, was kind enough to show me the space. As soon as I saw it I knew this was the place to live out my dream. A place that I could focus on making pizza.
ME: What's your personal background?

TOM: I was raised by a family of foodies in upstate NY. From my first job as a bus boy at 15, to present, I have worked a variety of different jobs in food and wine. My first experience working in a fine-dining restaurant was as a pantry chef in Nantucket. I owned and operated a small catering business in Prague. I worked at Windows on the World as an assistant sommelier. I have been a wine rep for Triage Wines, a local wine distributor for the past ten years. These are some highlights of my life in the industry.

ME: What kind of pizza exactly are you purveying?

TOM: A craft pizza in a style where New York meets Naples. Thin crust with pure, natural ingredients, baked in an exceedingly hot oven. Our goal is to offer our patrons a tasty and unique selection of local and European beer and wine made by small producers. We want our libations to work well with our food.

ME: Is this a take-out place?

TOM: We invite people to dine in but should someone want a pie to go I would be happy to box one up. Currently we are open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. We will be expanding our hours for the lunch crowd and we will be opening our patio up for outdoor dining by this summer.
ME: Anything else you think Madison Parkers should know the new joint?

TOM: I'm excited to join Madison Park's merchant gang. I'm looking forward to meeting the neighbors and feeding the eaters in this community.

Well, that’s about it for this pizza roundup. Bottom line: I think Mad Pizza has some competition on its hands, although maybe we’re talking about an entirely different segment of the market here: pizza aficionados. But don’t let my judgment rule. The patrons I spoke with had these things to say about their experience at The Independent Pizzeria: Unidentified (and wanting to remain so) Patron No. 1: “We’re from the East Coast and we know good pizza when we find it!” And Unidentified (I forgot to ask for a name) Patron No. 2: “This is better than Tutta Bella!”

(No, Tom is not paying me for this posting. And, as a matter of fact, I paid for my pizza too).

Some early reviews have been posted on two of the major restaurant customer-review sites, Yelp and Urban Spoon Seattle, and all of them are positive. So check the place out for yourselves. Just don’t show up on a Tuesday!

[Note: to-go orders must be made in person.]


  1. Tried the "IP in MP" on the weekend they opened. Pretty good pizzas and of course you can't beat the location (easy walk to and from.)

    Had to wait a bit (~40 min) for our pizzas but it was the first weekend so I didn't mind. Several people turned away as there was a queue already for a table. A good sign indeed.

    I think IP will stick around. Best of luck to Tom and IP!

  2. It looks delicious in the pictures. Great location across from the park!

  3. Thank you for the post! I tried it on the weekend after swimming. Sooo good!

  4. so happy to have a fun new spot to try in the hood...
    all the best to tom...
    and will surely be stopping in soon!
    sincerely, pam robinson/red ticking

  5. bryan... so happy to have found your blog. love it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.