THE CAST IRON TWIST: Downtown E.C.’s Newest ’Za Shop
soon-to-open Cast Iron Pizza Co. plans tantalizing pies with flavored crusts and more
The restaurant space at the corner of Riverfront Terrace and East Madison Street has been empty since Silly Serrano Mexican Restaurant made its move to Cameron Street, and folks have been left wondering ever since what sort of business will pop in there next.
The short answer: Cast Iron Pizza Co.
“First of all, everyone likes pizza,” said Dave Zempel, owner of Cast Iron Pizza Co. as well as the popular downtown restaurant The District. “We looked at the options in the area, and you have the really great artisan style that is generally more expensive, and then you have corporate (chain) pizza. There’s not much in between. So, we took a concept that’s kind of in between a Chicago-Detroit style and refined the process using cast iron.”
As Zempel described, folks that cook with cast iron know it’s an interesting process – and one that many told them would not be quick enough to sustain the style of dining the Cast Iron Pizza team was shooting for.
“It was our goal to kind of bridge these two identities – awesome, unique artisan product and corporate product – where we can have all the great things about artisan, but we can provide more and give people more access.”
OWNER OF CAST IRON PIZZA CO.
The unique cooking process of the crust isn’t the only thing that makes the pies special, though. With five options of flavored crusts, customers could get the same kind of pizza five times and get a different crust option each time, making for a whole new taste. Crust flavors include: Iron Man, Herbaceous, Ranchero, My Thai, and Inferno, with some of the pizza varieties including the Spin Doctor and Margherita (pictured below).
The chef behind Cast Iron Pizza’s mouth-watering food, Andrew John (AJ) Miller, has more than 15 years of food service under his belt, in the Chippewa Valley (he previously worked at The Informalist and The Lakely) and beyond. He settled in Seattle for five years, spent another year and a half in Charleston, South Carolina, and is originally from Minnesota, working at everything from fine dining to dive bars. Now, he’s working his magic back in the Valley.
Cast Iron Pizza will offer gourmet pies, specialty pies, a build-your-own option, a portobello mushroom flight, cast-iron cooked breadsticks with house-made dips, and an 11-foot salad bar which will have extensive options and rotate new things over time.
“We want to bring a fresh, clean vibe because we think (the pizza industry) is overwhelmed with the corporate world,” Zempel said. “It was our goal to kind of bridge these two identities – awesome, unique artisan product and corporate product – where we can have all the great things about artisan, but we can provide more and give people more access.”
Zempel said they hope to be the kind of eatery folks don’t have to take their credit card out just to buy a slice – yes, Cast Iron Pizza will be offering pizza by the slice, though not right away – and are excited for the community to get a taste of what they’ve created.
“I’ve learned throughout the years that you can try and cater to everybody and their tastebuds, but it’s not going to work that way,” Zempel explained. “Do I think that this is the best pizza that every single person’s going to taste in their life? Not everybody, but I think it’s going to be really, really close. With the things we’re incorporating, you’re just not seeing all of these flavors and this process (from other eateries).”
“As business owners, operators, and dreamers, you can’t tell somebody what to think, feel, or taste, but what I’m hoping will happen is people will come in and see a really amazing artisan product at affordable prices and awesome flavor. If we can do that, we’ve been successful.”
The soon-to-open pizza joint has been moving quickly since first getting into its new space. A remodel with custom elements has completely changed the vibe from what locals may remember. There are custom-welded steel baseboards and more, fresh basil growing in a wall-hanging for folks to see, sleek black seating, and of course, the 11-foot salad bar settled to the side of the ordering station.
As far as an opening date, Zempel and the team said it’s still up in the air, and they likely will just open the door whenever they’re ready without announcing an official date. “The reason for that is, a lot of people will put a date down on something (and they have to open then). That’s not a bad way to do it, we just want to be able to sit down as a team, see everybody feels really good about it, and then open. So, you’re going to see something pop up that’s like, ‘Hey, put it in an order,’ and that’s how it’s going to roll.”
Once Iron Cast Pizza does open, it’ll be open seven days a week. Sunday-Thursday the eatery will be open 11am-9pm, and Friday-Saturday from 11am-11pm. They are working with third-party carriers, so while they won’t deliver themselves, folks can order from services like Google Eats and DoorDash.
“As business owners, operators, and dreamers, you can’t tell somebody what to think, feel, or taste,” Zempel said. “But what I’m hoping will happen is, people will come in and see a really amazing artisan product at affordable prices and awesome flavor. If we can do that, we’ve been successful.”
Keep up with Cast Iron Pizza Co. on Facebook. The eatery will be located at 329 Riverfront Terrace (on the corner of East Madison Street) in downtown Eau Claire.