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Wood-fired pizza restaurant coming to downtown Lawrence


There is New York-style pizza. There is Chicago-style pizza. Even St. Louis claims to have its own style of pizza. (Missouri and style? Do they only serve the pizza in front yards and on cinder blocks, just like how they park their cars? Sorry, I keep forgetting that we like each other now that we don't play each other.)

Regardless, get ready for Kansas-style pizza, and look for it this spring in downtown Lawrence. After months of telling you that a new restaurant indeed will open in the former La Parrilla spot at 814 Massachusetts Street (La Parrilla moved into the 700 block, if you remember), I now can report that it will be a pizza place.

Work is underway to convert the space into Limestone Pizza Kitchen and Bar. But before you groan about another pizza place in Lawrence, the leaders of Limestone are promising this one will be different. And indeed, the ownership group has a track record for creating innovative food. Rick Martin, who served for 15 years as the executive chef at Free State Brewery, is teaming up with a pair of other Lawrence foodies. Mikey Humphrey, who has served as the head baker at Wheatfields, will be part of the ownership group. So too will Charles Rascoll, who is one of the founders of Wheatfields and also has served as a longtime instructor at the famed Culinary Institute of America. Debbie Rascoll, Charles' wife, also will be a partner in the business.

But just what the heck is Kansas-style pizza? Well, first, it is wood-fired, and not just with any wood. The group plans to use Kansas hedge to fire the specially built oven that will reach temperatures of 900 degrees and cook a pizza in 90 seconds.

The crust will be thin, in the style of the original Neapolitan-style pizza of Italy. And to be fair, Neapolitan-style pizza is really what Limestone will be striving to create. But the group wants to do so with a strong Kansas influence. That means all the crust will be made from Kansas wheat, the mozzarella will be made in house at the restaurant, and Martin said the group hopes to find enough local tomato growers to make the sauce an all Kansas affair as well.

As for the end product, Martin said it will be different from what is served in other local pizzerias.

"It is hard to even call it a thin crust pizza because then people will start to think of it like an American thin crust," Martin said.

Instead, Martin said Limestone's pizzas will be very much like a pizza from Naples, Italy, in that it will be very crispy on the bottom but moist — or some would even say wet — on the top.

Construction work is well underway on the site. The wood fired oven will be prominently displayed in the dining area of the restaurant, Martin said. The group plans to open in the spring, perhaps as early as March.

In addition to the pizza, Martin said the menu will include several other appetizers, sandwiches and salads that are made with local ingredients.

The group also is hoping that the restaurant gains another reputation. Both Martin and Rascoll have backgrounds as food educators, and the group wants to work that into the restaurant's mission as well.

"We hope this will become the place where young people can come to work and really learn the culinary skills," Martin said.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 1 month ago

I have two aunts that have traveled extensively in Europe and Russia, among other places. One of them told me that she was very surprised when she ate pizza in Italy, where pizza is going to be as authentic as you can get. It was not anything like what she had expected, it was very bland, with no toppings. It was a thin crust with tomato sauce and cheese on it, and that was about it. But it is certainly possible that pizza is prepared differently in other parts of Italy.

From a brief look at the web, it appears that pizza is prepared and served in many different ways, and with many different toppings, depending upon local tastes. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, because that's what the customers want and expect.

And, a very good friend of mine was the manager at a wood fired pizza restaurant in downtown Wichita. But, the owners didn't make wise business decisions, and spent something like $14,000 to install a brick wood burning pizza oven inside the restaurant. I don't suppose the heating bill was very high, but the cooling bill in the summer must have been huge. The place closed in less than a year, and later, the $14,000 wood burning pizza oven was removed by subsequent owners. I have no idea how much that cost!

I certainly hope this new pizza parlor successfully caters to our local tastes, and it will be very nice to support our local Kansas economy by eating there. I am looking forward to it.

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