Once again, Union Square Hospitality Group’s (USHG) has set it sites on capturing market share in a key foodservice segment. Martina — the mini counter-service version of Danny Meyer’s popular pizzeria Marta — has launched its latest concept serving Roman pies in the East Village.
Under the guidance of Marta chef Nick Anderer, Pizzeria Martina offers a menu with 20 items total, including pizza, meatballs, salads, vegetable sides, and gelato. Toppings for pizza include four cheeses, olives, fried eggs, and a spicy salami imported from Tuscany.
Unlike USHG’s portfolio of restaurants, Martina does not have table service. Guests order both food and a selection of wines and champagne at the counter. Snacks and drinks will be available immediately after ordering, while pizza will take a tad longer. Prices are also intended to be fairly low, with some pizza costing $7.
The USHG lead Meyer team has reinvented the burger business with Shake Shack with eateries in a wide diversity of venues across the nation. From airports to shopping malls, college and universities to ballparks, it would seem that Pizzeria Martina units may soon find their way next to their burger brethren.
Total Food Service had the opportunity to discuss the creation of Pizzeria Martina, classic floor plan, and efficient kitchen, as well as get the project approach from:
Nick Anderer, Executive Chef, Pizzeria Martina, New York, NY
Paul Ryan, Project Manager, Jacobs Doland Beer, New York, NY
Gary Jacobs, Principal, Jacobs Doland Beer, New York, NY
Sue McNulty, VP Sales, Singer Equipment-Contract Division, Bellmawr, NJ
Nick Anderer’s Approach:
Danny (Meyer) and I made the decision to work together again after we opened Marta. I wanted the opportunity to serve our pizza to a wider audience. In addition, I wanted to offer an authentic representation of the pizzerias that I had experienced during my time in Rome.
I was inspired by Rome’s thin crust pizza, and I set out to open a smaller and more casual alternative to Marta. I found the East Village to be the perfect setting for Martina.
In order to realize my concept for a Roman-style thin crust pizza, we began with the dough. To create a tasty thin crust, we incorporate an aggressive fermentation process, which yields tremendous flavor within the crust. The texture is achieved by rolling most of the air out of the dough, which allows for an optimal balance between “crack” and “chew.” By the time we opened Martina, the crust concept had already been perfected. Next, we worked towards streamlining the cooking process through the use of a different oven that can accommodate more pizzas, allowing us to maximize output.
The process of selecting the right oven included sampling a variety of different pizzerias as far away as the West Coast and Denver that were utilizing many different ovens. We liked the Wood Stone oven so the next step was to travel to their factory in Bellingham, Washington to test out a number of different recipes in their ovens. It was absolutely crucial to select an oven that allowed for reliable temperature control. Eventually, I determined that the 9060 model would best serve my needs. I found that I could fit about 12 pizzas in that oven, which is twice as many as our other ovens at Marta could accommodate.
I’m a very competitive person, so the high level of competition between pizzerias doesn’t necessarily concern me. I’m confident in our very specific style of pizza, so I try not to worry about making adjustments in response to competitors.
I certainly have read that the press and bloggers are wondering whether Martina is the beginning of a new national chain. At this point, I’m not concerned with expanding to other parts of the country. My goal for Martina was to create an exceptional East village pizzeria.
At Martina, we aren’t striving to create an experimental pizza with elaborate toppings. Rather, we want to offer an extraordinary traditional pizza pie.
For the design of the actual restaurant, I was inspired by a few specific pizzerias in Rome, and I strove to recreate those atmospheres. We worked with Gary Jacobs on the kitchen design. We’ve worked with him on several projects and he understands what we are trying to accomplish.
Paul Ryan and Gary Jacobs’ Approach:
The first time we saw the space was early last Fall. Nick had a detailed vision for the flow and assembly of the pizza. That plan began with how customers would queue and then of course how the employees would be positioned to maximize efficiency.
One of the challenges was to help them create a design that could bring efficiency to the five people working the line. So, what we were trying to do was think about each of the functions from rolling out the dough to adding toppings and right down to where the peel would be positioned for the guy or gal working the oven.
Our goal was to help him work with ease through the fabrication of the line. Keep in mind too that although there is a small cellar, there’s no cooking there, just production storage. The focus for us was to create a system that could consistently handle pizza dough forming and mixing storage and then finally sheeting and rounding.
As with any project in which flow is a priority, the fabricator plays a key role. We brought Custom Diamond in from Montreal. They did a great job on the shots line, which is a highly detailed piece that manages all of the restaurant’s refrigeration storage. They also built a marble monolithic marble stone top throughout for the chef.
Clearly as we looked and helped to execute the plan, it was about creating something that is scalable to multiple locations. So, it began with making certain that we could combine the right oven with the correct stone. Wood Stone was able to accomplish that with a gas fired oven.
One of the other challenges was how to deal with ventilation. Our goal with ventilation on any project we do in New York City is to always err on the side of caution. With the proper positioning of our Pitco fryer next to the pizza oven, we were able to tie in a simple cartridge based ventilation solution.
We have also helped them create a signature throwback wall to create a special cocktail and dessert bar. It features cold brew coffee, beer and a signature cocktail. By adding a Taylor ice cream unit, they have a couple of nice desserts to offer as well.
Sue McNulty’s Approach:
We have had the opportunity to work with Union Square Hospitality on several of their concepts including Shake Shack. We always enjoy working with Gary Jacobs and the Jacobs Dolan team.
What we found interesting is how they were able to use their Marta restaurant to create the plan for Martina. Nick Anderer and Gary had collaborated on the Marta kitchen so they have had a couple of years to “get pizza right”.
The priorities of our role were build an equipment package and a plumbing and electrical design to support Gary’s plan. It’s really an interesting design because it is all focused around the front counter. There is a small downstairs with dishwashing and ice making.
Among the challenges that we faced was the challenge of project managing in what we like to call the red zone. With a tight deadline to get open, we were entrusted with juggling the installation of equipment, coordinating with the trades and the custom fabrication. Ken Demming and Dave Ball from our team did a great job of supporting Nick, Gary and Paul.