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Thick-crusted Detroit-style pizzas are becoming increasingly popular in the Steel City.
You could say they are iron born.
Kittanning-born Pete Tolman knew he had to take the doughy slices to western Pennsylvania the first time he tried them, on a trip not to Motor City but to Telluride, Colorado.
Tolman attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s culinary school, worked in several fine dining restaurants, and managed cooked food for Giant Eagle for years. “I felt like I had the experience and passion to open my own place,” he said.
He launched Iron Born Pizza in the Strip District in 2017, started in the Smallman Galley – the restaurant’s incubator – and moved to his own location on Smallman Street in late 2019. In between he opened a takeout in Millvale.
The name “Iron Born” is a reference to Tolman’s roots in Pittsburgh and the steel pans they use to bake pizza. They form a thick, rectangular crust that is both crispy and chewy.
“I think we brought something that Pittsburgh has never seen and they’re still excited,” said Tolman.
Tolman names the spicy cake as his first choice. It offers red sauce, spicy soppressata, hot peppers, banana peppers, and Mike’s hot honey. Other favorites are the white cake – made with garlic cream, roasted tomatoes, ricotta, lemon rocket, and caramelized onions – and the red cake with red sauce, hot peppers and garlic oil.
“One of the hallmarks of Detroit is that we put the sauce on it when it comes out,” said Dan McGhee, chef and manager, as he finished a red cake. “Then we garnish a little with a little garlic oil that we make ourselves, a little Romano cheese mixture and some fresh herbs.”
Chef Dan McGhee shows how to make Detroit-style pizza @IronBornPgh. pic.twitter.com/M4ur6yEpei
– Julia Felton (@ JuliaFelton16) January 22, 2021
Everything on the menu is homemade.
“I tweaked the recipe to make it a little fluffier and crispier,” said Tolman.
The pizza dough is fermented for two days. “The fermentation tastes better over time,” he said. “It tastes stronger.”
Other options include the Cubano cake – made with honey mustard, smoked pork, rosemary ham, dill pickles, and Swiss cheese – and the Yinzer cake, a mix of red sauce, hot peppers, mushrooms, and garlic oil. The top vegetables are topped with red sauce, peppers, red onions, olives, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.
“Pizza isn’t always the most romantic thing, but we try to make it the best we can,” said Tolman. “We put our hearts into our homemade recipes.”
Iron Born also serves pasta, chicken wings, and sandwiches, as well as beer and wine.
Tolman said he appreciated the community’s support during the pandemic. The restaurant is open for limited indoor and takeout meals. “People love our pizza and want to support us,” he said.
During the pandemic, Tolman had to downsize the menu and temporarily close the bar. And while takeaway food is served well, Tolman says, he prefers to serve it fresh in the restaurant.
Tolman is committed to serving more people inside once the pandemic restrictions wear off.
“It would be great to see joy again – and pizza usually does that,” said Tolman.
Julia Felton is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, email@example.com, or on Twitter.
Food & Drink | Lifestyles | Pittsburgh | Shaler Journal | Valley News Dispatch
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