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Photo by Doug Trattner
The Detroit-style pizza at Gray House
It’s reasonable to look at all these new pizza joints setting up shop and lament the death of variety. But with each new opening – at least the independently owned ones we’ve been tracking here – the overall level of quality, consistency and, yes, diversity continues to climb. Two new Lakewood spots that opened recently are proof that in today’s competitive pizza marketplace, phoning it in will no longer cut it.
When it comes to product, setting and service model, Boom’s Pizza and Gray House Pizza – located one mile apart from each other – could not be more dissimilar. What they do share are owners that are so passionate about pizza that they border on obsessed. In the case of Boom’s, chef-owner Ben Bebenroth spent the better part of two years perfecting the dough that eventually would lead him to this style. In the case of Gray House, owner Joe Schlott has been tinkering with his Detroit-style recipe for more than five years, while letting the customers at his Gray House Pie shop taste the progress.
Any neighborhood would consider itself fortunate to land a Boom’s, assuming it looks and feels like the original. Located in a bright corner property, formerly home to Campbell’s Sweets Factory, the meticulously designed interior gives new depth and dimension to fast-casual. Guests have an unobstructed view into the kitchen, where cooks toss and stretch the dough before it gets topped and baked. A large window offers passersby on Detroit the same view.
Before ordering, diners can shop the large self-serve coolers loaded with a top-notch selection of craft beer, canned wine and cocktails, and even chilled splits and bottles of wine. A house white and red are available by the glass. After ordering, diners grab a seat in the cheerful 44-seat dining room, which offers table and booth seating choices.
Pizzas come in one size: 14-inch round. The crust shares a lot in common with Neapolitan-style pie thanks to its char-speckled cornicione, tender crumb and thin crust. Like proper Neapolitan, the outer crust boasts a thin, crisp exterior shielding an airy and aromatic interior. More than just a pretty face, this crust is uber flavorful thanks to a long, slow, cold fermentation.
The Hot Stuff ($24) has a gentle heat from Calabrian chilies and hot honey. It is topped with pepperoni, garlic and herbs. Unlike an American gut-buster, this pie goes down without a struggle. If you like it rich and creamy, opt for a white pie like the El Bianco ($22). Built on a base of garlic cream, the three-cheese pizza is an indulgent treat. Leftovers are easily packed up for departure thanks to self-serve box stations.
Rounding out the meal (and serving as appetizers for dine-in customers) are grab-and-enjoy items like antipasti jars, pepper jelly-topped whipped ricotta ($6) served with packaged saltines, and a pair of salads, including the OG Italian ($12) with greens, olives, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes and Italian dressing.
Gray House Pizza can best be described as a stripped-down pizza parlor. The barebones storefront has a pick-up counter and a few seats. But what the joint lacks in style it makes up for in product. Despite its deep-dish appearance, Schlott’s Detroit-style pie has the light and airy consistency of downy-soft focaccia. The contrast between that tender crumb and the crispy, crunchy edges and corners is what sets this variety apart from all others. Gray House pies are ringed with a golden-brown, cheese-melted exterior that ensures that no crust is left behind.
Pies come in two sizes, 8-inch x 10-inch and 10-inch x 14-inch. Customers can build their own or pick a house pie. We did both, ordering a large meatball and a medium BYO with pepperoni, banana pepper and onion. It isn’t until the pies exit the oven that they are anointed with summer-sweet sauce, which creates an appealing contrast of cool marinara and steamy-hot pizza. In terms of value, these hefty knife-and-fork pies are a steal.
If you want a salad to go with your pizza, you’ll need to purchase it elsewhere. Gray House sells pizza, a handful of desserts and doubles as the storefront for UK Pies (more on that later).
For dessert, I grabbed an order of gooey butter cake ($5) from the cooler. The St. Louis staple was every bit as sweet, creamy, buttery and dense as I’d heard they should be.
A word about online ordering: Boom’s system presently is decommissioned until in-person demand thins out, while Gray House’s online tech is wonky at best. I had selected a later pickup time only to find out the pizza was prepared immediately. The staffers rightly corrected the snafu with a fresh-baked pie.
14730 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
Gray House Pizza
14201 Madison Ave., Lakewood
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