Pizza Champ, introduced as a pandemic pivot by the acclaimed restaurant Elmwood, will soon open a brick-and-mortar location of its own at 2657 Lyle Avenue in Maplewood. The pizzeria will offer both counter service and a drive-thru window, with seating for 60 on an all-seasons patio.
Pizza Champ features 18-inch pies made with dough fermented for 48 hours and baked in a brick-lined deck oven. Styles range from a classic arrangement of red sauce, mozzarella and extra pepperoni to a béchamel-based white pizza with mushroom conserva to the specialty Buffalo-chicken and taco pies. You can also build your own pizza.
Owners Chris Kelling and Adam Altnether, who is the chef, debuted their pizza at Elmwood in the summer of 2020. They have fine-tuned their technique since then, Kelling tells Off the Menu, but their essential approach has not varied.
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“Adam is uniquely skilled,” Kelling says, “and this concept hit the ground at, like, 90% formed — just, you know, from his mind to concept, and then we've tweaked it from there.”
The menu also includes chicken Parm and spicy fried chicken sandwiches, salads and wings.
Pizza Champ will share its new space with Shared, the collective-brewing venture from Maplewood’s Side Project Brewing. Kelling has known Side Project owners Cory and Karen King for several years and got to know their team while he and Altnether developed Elmwood. The two concepts are a “natural fit,” he says.
Pizza Champ and Shared will be separate businesses. The exact details on how Shared will operate at 2657 Lyle are still under development. More on that as Off the Menu learns it.
Kelling and Altnether aim to open Pizza Champ by late January or early February. In the meantime, Pizza Champ’s menu is available for takeout or delivery via Elmwood.
As for Elmwood itself, the restaurant opened for a limited number of dine-in services in November and December with reservations-only, four-course prix-fixe dinners. That format will likely return in March and April.
Given supply-chain issues and the current labor availability, Kelling says, “I think that concept will let us execute our vision of Elmwood to the highest form that we're going to be able to for a while.”
Elmwood opened in 2019 at 2704 Sutton Boulevard in Maplewood. I awarded it three stars in my May 2019 review.