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West Lawrence pizza location closes, and an update on other comings and goings in the world of Lawrence pizza
Perhaps you remember that time period when seemingly all of west Lawrence turned into New York City. If not, I’m talking about that period in 2012 and 2013 when nearly every restaurant that opened was a New York-style pizzeria serving “pie slices” big enough to cover a Donald Trump comb-over.
There was Morningstar’s New York Pizza at Sixth and Wakarusa, Tad’s Pizzeria at Bob Billings and Kasold, and Johnny Brusco’s also at Sixth and Wakarusa. You may recall that Johnny Brusco’s closed before I could even get the marinara sauce off my tie. The other two duked it out, though, for a good long time. But no more. Tad’s Pizzeria at 1410 Kasold closed in recent days.
Owner Tad Gellender told me the business’ lease was up at the end of 2016, and he decided he wanted to spend more time with his four children than at the restaurant. Gellender said business was fine, and actually he sold the name, the recipes and the equipment to an operation called KC’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Merriam.
“I tried to sell it locally, but nobody really looked at it,” Gellender said.
So, folks will be able to go to Kansas City to get that particular style of New York Pizza. But you really don’t need to leave town at all. There are still plenty of places near Sixth and Wakarusa that serve pizza crust like Facebook serves facts — thin. The southwest corner of Sixth and Wakarusa has Morningstar’s and Johnny’s Tavern, both of which serve New York-style pizza, and the northwest corner has the newly opened Spin pizza, which serves Neapolitan style pizza, which also is a thin-crust variety.
Some of you, though, may be more worried about Gellender’s other business venture: Tad’s Shaved Ice, which has operated for decades out of a small food trailer along Iowa Street. Tad said not to worry. The decision to get out of the pizza business won’t affect the shaved-ice business, which operates seasonally near the NAPA Auto Parts store south of Ninth and Iowa streets.
“That business is still good to go,” he said.
Gellender said he’s had that business for 22 years, opening it right after he graduated from Pittsburg State and moved to Lawrence.
In other news and notes from around town:
• While we are near the Sixth and Wakarusa intersection, I have news of Lawrence’s other favorite food: fried chicken. We’ve reported that the Arkansas-based chain Slim Chickens is locating in the former KFC location at Sixth and Wakarusa. Well, evidently Slim is quick at construction. According to the Facebook page for Slim Chickens, the Lawrence restaurant plans to open before the end of the month. As we have reported, Slim Chickens focuses on chicken fingers and chicken sandwiches.
• Back to pizza. Domino’s Pizza is probably not what you would consider New York pizza, but it is cheap and of better quality than Mariah Carey’s last New York performance. There is good news for fans of Domino’s near Ninth and Iowa streets.
The company’s store near the northeast corner of the intersection has been under renovation since August. Look for it to open soon. General manager Neal Coomes said he couldn’t provide an exact timeline, but he indicated it would be just a few weeks.
The renovation has taken about twice as long as expected, but Coomes said the location will have some dramatic improvements. Prior to the renovation, the location was strictly take-out or delivery. There will be some dine-in options at the new location. Coomes said there will be counter seating, plus two or three booths and tables for diners.
The renovation includes a complete makeover of both the interior and exterior space, and the design will be similar to the newly renovated Domino’s on 23rd Street, which is owned by the same franchisee. (Win a trivia contest with this knowledge: The owner of the Lawrence Domino’s is the brother of former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green.) Coomes said the Ninth and Iowa location will include a much more open kitchen concept that allows customers to see their pizzas being made.
“We call it the dough show,” Coomes said. “You can watch us slap out the dough and make the pizza.”
One other thing to note about the renovation. Coomes said the parking lot will become one way, with motorists able to enter only off of Iowa Street and able to exit only onto Ninth Street.
• This last item is speculation, but if you can’t speculate about pizza, what can you speculate about? (I once speculated that anchovies, habaneros and pickle chips would be a good pizza combo, but a stomach pump proved me wrong.)
For whatever it is worth, keep an ear open for a chain called Marco’s Pizza moving to Lawrence. The company sent me a press release saying it has plans to open 35 new stores throughout the greater Kansas City area in the next five years. The press release specifically mentioned the communities of Lawrence, Ottawa, Blue Springs and Shawnee as targets for expansion.
The company touts itself as the fastest growing pizza chain in the country, opening a new store about every three days. It also touts itself as the only American pizza chain founded by a native Italian. The company currently has five stores in the Kansas City market, and serves pizza, subs, wings, salads and a few desserts.
I have heard no news of an imminent deal in Lawrence, but I’ll let you know if that changes.