Restaurateur extraordinaire Brooks Reitz (of Upper King triumvirate Little Jacks, Leon's, and Melfi's) says he's always loved Monza, and that's why he's helping craft a new path for the beloved King St. spot: "It's always been a great restaurant — it was one of my favorite places when I moved to town. My wife and I had one of our first dates there."
Opened by Reitz's frequent business partner Tim Mink in 2008, Monza, with its wood-fired Neapolitan pies, set the scene for the veritable pizza empire the city has since laid claim to
. Reitz says he has never been involved with Monza before, but through the process of opening Melfi's, he and Mink realized how much more they could do with the humble spot on King.
"We asked 'What is the difference between Monza and Melfi's? How do we redesign Monza in the context of Melfi's and expand its footprint?'"
Partly in order to delineate the two Mink-owned restaurants, and also inspired by their recent treks across Italian terrain, Reitz says they decided to polish off Monza, expanding the concept to include a double pizza oven and proper bar. Which meant shutting one door to throw open another — closing Closed For Business for good.
Also owned by Mink, CFB has garnered many local fans over the past eight years who love the casual bar's extensive beer list and tasty bites. But when it came down to it, Reitz says of the two restaurants, which share back of house operations — kitchen, dish pit, office, and storage — "from a purely business perspective, Monza is a better business, there's more demand."
Reitz says they'll use CFB as a staging spot for the redesign and reno, hoping to close Monza for no more than three to five weeks when the wall comes down later this year.
Monza will become Monza Pizza Bar when it reopens, perhaps serving as Melfi's laid-back King St. cousin, or maybe the family oriented older brother. With more space to stretch its legs, Monza Pizza Bar will serve up the same locally cherished pies inspired by Formula 1 racing in addition to salads and shareable small plates spiffed up with true Italian methods culled from Reitz's international research, "we may cut the lettuce differently for the Caesar, tweak the dressing a bit."
The biggest change, undoubtedly, will be the vibe a large bar area brings to the restaurant. "You know where the fireplace is in Closed for Business? Well that will be the location of two pizza ovens and a wrap-around-bar, harnessing the whole space," says Reitz. "I thought, 'if Monza had a proper bar we could so much more.'"
As far as libations, expect wine, beer, and cocktails on tap. "We're exploring the fun Italian style of drinking — those flavors are so light and crispy and bitter in a citrusy way," says Reitz. "Monza has always been a great restaurant, but it was always missing the energy of a bar. A great bar can pulse with life."
Check back here for more updates on Monza Pizza Bar's official opening, and follow Monza's reno progress on Instagram
(Cover photo via Monza Instagram.)