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Pizza news: Loui Loui’s bringing first Detroit-style pizza to Louisville in April

by Steve Coomes

Shawn Randazzo’s award-winning Detroit-style pizza. Loui Loui’s will largely resemble this version.

Michiganders-cum-Kentuckians rejoice: Detroit-style pizza is coming to town in April under the name of Loui Loui’s Authentic Detroit-style Pizza.

Before you think, “Really? Do we need more pizza in Louisville?” know that while the dough, sauce and cheese shtick is well represented here, no one does that style here.

That’s good news for those who’ve not had it and an unexpected blessing for Wolverine State natives who love this thicker, pan-style pizza that’s not heavily sauced and cheesed like Chicago style or overly topped like what some call “Louisville style.” It is its own thing, and it’s darn good.

Seeing an opportunity to serve it here, Detroit native Michael Spurlock is bringing it to J-Town (10212 Taylorsville Road) in the building that housed Ferd Grisanti’s for more than three decades.

“My dad used to bring home (Detroit-style) pizza from Buddy’s and Cloverleaf, places that are legends there,” said Spurlock, an I.T. executive here. Ironically, it was a friend’s battle with cancer and chemotherapy that eventually drove him to bring it here. “Practically the only thing he felt like eating was Detroit-style pizza. So I’d make about five trips a year there to get a bunch of them to stash in his freezer while he was still alive.”

Unfortunately, the friend died, but Spurlock’s will to bring Detroit-style pizza only got stronger. For several years he “worked to crack the code, cooking it all the time and about making my family sick of it,” Spurlock said. When he later learned of a pizza consultant devoted specifically to teaching the nuances of Detroit-style pizza, he gave him a call.

“I told him if there had ever been a time to get into this business and capitalize on filing a void for it here, now was it,” said Spurlock.

Proof that the whole “six degrees of separation” thing is really more like two degrees, I bumped into said consultant, Shawn Randazzo at the North American Pizza & Ice Cream Show, a trade event held in mid-February. Passionate about plying his pie style, the award-winning pizza maker’s enthusiasm for Louisvillians’ upcoming taste matched Spurlock’s.

“From what he tells me about Louisville, I know they’re going to like it there,” said Randazzo, who baked a Detroit-style pizza to win $4,000 at the International Pizza Expo in 2012. “It’s my goal to make this a style that all of America knows.”

Detroit-style pizza starts with a heavy, pressed steel rectangular pan that’s well oiled. A thick (but once baked), light and chewy dough, is pressed into the pan and allowed to rise to about double its volume. It’s then pressed down again, sauced, cheesed, topped and often dolloped with additional sauce. During the 30-minute bake, the oil in the pan shallow fries the dough’s exterior crisply to give it an appealing nuttiness.

The style is linked to the Italian pan style often loosely called “teglia” (pronounced “tell-ya”), and sometimes referred to as “Sicilian style,” which is also a slight stretch since that’s thicker than teglia. Neither gets the pan-fried treatment, which, as best I can tell, is a uniquely American touch said to have been created by Detroiter Gus Guerra in 1946.

The longtime Ferd Grisanti’s site in J-Town.

“It’s been around for a long time, and it’s so popular in Michigan that I’m surprised it hasn’t made it this way yet,” Spurlock said. Spurlock is one of five partners behind Loui Loui’s Inc. His role as president extends to an investor’s role—“In case my boss is reading this, I want him to know I’m not quitting my day job,” he added—though he wants to know every aspect of the operation heading into its late April opening.

The name is a combination nod to several Louie’s Pizza places in Detroit and the new restaurant’s roots in Louisville.

“My involvement beyond lead investor is that I came up with the concept and recipes,” Spurlock said. Another partner, Lawrence Smith, will manage the restaurant. “We’re still looking for a chef to run the kitchen.”

Though the menu isn’t finalized, Spurlock said Loui Loui’s will serve a great deal of Italian fare such as pastas, salads and desserts. He promises that any fans of authentic arancini (a small ball of risotto and cheese that’s rolled in breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with marinara) will be pleased with his version.

“Our pizza will be more expensive than what you see at delivery places, but not super expensive,” he said. “This will be an upscale pizza place, but still an affordable place.”

A crew worked busily cleaning up 917 Baxter Ave., formerly the Tequila Factory, to ready it for operation as the new DiOrio’s Pizza.

* In other pizza news …a crew from DiOrio’s Pizza has been busy cleaning and polishing the former Tequila Factory (917 Baxter Ave.) for what could be a grand opening next week.

Insider Louisville editor Terry Boyd snapped some pics while in the neighborhood last weekend.

The current DiOrio’s is in St. Matthews at 310 Wallace Ave. More on this development when we track down DiOrio’s owners.

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