It’s well known that I like to find hidden gems that most people don’t know about. After all, I was the one who told you about a great restaurant hidden inside of a liquor store.
Well, I have another one for you. I found a great pizza place … hidden inside an award-winning barbecue place. Honestly, it’s really hidden in plain sight.
A while back, Plowboys Barbeque relocated to the former Ingredient location downtown at 1111 Main St. One of the perks of the new spot was that there happened to be a huge, brick pizza oven that owner Todd Johns didn’t want to let go to waste.
He wasn’t sure how he was going to use it, just that it would come into play in the future.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Fast forward several months. Information technology professional and pizza hobbyist Jonny Doelling meets up with Johns (a former IT guy himself). They decide to collaborate on a growing trend in the food business: a pop-up restaurant embedded in a brick-and-mortar establishment.
Now, to be clear, when I refer to Doelling as a pizza hobbyist, that’s an understatement. Doelling, who grew up in Lee’s Summit, has been working on his pizza game for years.
He first got intrigued because his now-wife was a baker. Later, he really started getting into the art of pizza-making until finally falling in love with the Neapolitan style.
Neapolitan, of course, meant he had to start cooking in his own brick oven. He has honed his pizza by fine-tuning his dough. It’s a naturally leavened and slow-fermented style, which really helps to build flavor but takes at least 48 hours for proper development.
When Doelling and his wife moved back to Kansas City, he was ready to become his own pizziola and open up his own place. That’s when the intersection of good luck, a great business plan and a “meeting of the minds” came together.
Doelling contacted Johns and shared his business plan to get some advice. That meeting spawned the idea: Heartwood Pizzeria, a Kansas City spin on Neapolitan, uses the oven at Plowboys.
I HAD to go and try it for myself.
Doelling had us start with the Margherita pizza, which is a classic Neapolitan pie.
This pizza had all the characteristics that you want in a Neapolitan pizza: a pillowy texture, with a soft, chewy center and a classic crisp bottom. And then there was the sauce and fresh mozzarella. This pie was the real deal.
OMG. I gotta tell you, there is something about pizza made from a slow-fermented starter dough that you just can’t beat.
You might wonder, why don’t other places do this if it tastes so much better? It’s harder and much more labor intensive, but I can attest from working on my own pizza projects that the effort is so worth it.
After that great experience with the Margherita, I had to try the Street Car Pie. This is what I was really looking forward to. It’s the perfect marriage of pizza and barbecue, featuring Plowboys’ award-winning burnt ends and sauce, with some caramelized onions layered on that Neapolitan crust.
Think about all of those flavors together. If you think that sounds good, it tastes even better.
So go try Heartwood Pizzeria for yourself. One bite, and you’ll see why I’m a fan of this place. Johns and Doelling have a winning combination going on here.
But since this is a pop-up concept, the pizza will be available only until Friday. Thursday (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Friday (10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS barbecue judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.