For the past few years, the conversation about pizza has been about one thing: Neapolitan pies. In mid-July, Andrew Goodman and Stefan Bowers (Battalion, Rebelle, Feast) are set to buck that trend with the opening of Playland Pizza, a new concept coming to the East Houston Street side of downtown’s Maverick Building.
“I’m not trying to be a maverick or anything,” Bowers tells CultureMap, “but the whole Napoli pizza thing is something I don’t want to be aligned with since it has become so popular.”
Instead, Bowers and Rebelle sous chef Robert Martinez (who will be running the Playland kitchen) will offer California-style pies built on sourdough crusts. Bowers previously made sourdough crusts during his stint at 20nine Restaurant and Wine Bar, where he says he built a considerable word-of-mouth following before the dawn of social media.
There will be a few differences in his approach, however. The restaurant is currently waiting for the delivery of a wood-burning Mugnaini oven, which Bowers will use to bake pizza for three or four minutes instead of the usual 90 second zap. Bowers says the longer bake will give his pizzas the “burnished, bready exterior of good sourdough and a little more depth.”
Bowers says the toppings will include traditional cured meats and cheeses, as well as local produce. Rather than relying on the usual marinara, he will be introducing “off-key” sauces like a fiery green harissa, kicked up even further by a liberal use of chiles.
But the noted San Antonio chef says he doesn’t want to take things too far. “I don’t want to be zany about it and make pizza ridiculous,” he says, adding that he is aware of the argument that when pizza toppings are taken to the extreme, it really becomes flatbread.
Where he is willing to throw out the rule book is what should be served alongside pizza. Playland will be doing a side program of pork butt, which Bowers says will be prepared “competition style” by injecting it and rubbing it so it cures in the fridge before the smoke process. Although details are still being figured out, he shares that the large capacity smoker will probably burn applewood.
As for the sauce, it will be a “an assertive barbecue sauce, but not as vinegary as the Carolina style,” he says. “[We will find the] middle ground between the sweeter, tangier Texas style melded with the more acidic.”
For starters, he is looking at “straightforward appetizers that go right to the jugular” like smoked buffalo wings and jalapeño poppers with cream cheese and pulled pork. The restaurant may also squeeze in a soft serve machine to simplify desserts in the spare kitchen.
Playland Pizza will have a full bar, eight beers on tap, and a curated wine list. “We’re not going to shortchange anything,” he promises.
Like all Bowers and Goodman restaurants, atmosphere is the key component. Goodman will drive the design with Bowers working alongside his business partner for the frist time. Patrons can expect a space surrounded by windows, and outfitted with light tones and plenty of Goodman’s signature marble. Unlike Battalion’s hot red color scheme, the new space will have more subdued blues and grays.
Though the projected July opening date is coming quickly, Bowers says the building owners are helping facilitate a speedy build-out. Now if only that oven would arrive.