Create-your-own pizza comes to Dinky

Pizza Studio will open its second restaurant in the Twin Cities area.

by Anne Millerbernd

University of Minnesota students are used to the speed of Mesa Pizza and being able to customize their pie toppings at other pizza chains. Now, a new Dinkytown restaurant will offer the best of both worlds, as well as a salad option.

Pizza Studio, a fast- casual restaurant chain, finds its newest home on Monday at the space between Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Pagoda on Fourth Street Southeast.

The eatery lets its patrons customize their pizza from crust to toppings — and everything in between. Thanks to a specialized oven, customers wait about two minutes to leave with a whole pizza.

Like at Chipotle or Subway, two other fast-casual restaurants, Pizza Studio customers travel down an assembly line and tell employees what kind of crust, sauce, cheese and toppings they want.

The restaurant’s service model is popular because it can be either a to-go or a sit-down joint depending on the patron’s mood, said Joe Remsa, the company’s market operator.

Reducing the pizza’s cook time while maintaining the quality, he said, has made Pizza Studio successful at its West Coast locations. The Twin Cities has one other Pizza Studio location in the Mall of America.

“They like the speed and the customization, [and] it’s really for time-crunched people,” he said. “It allows pizza to be competitive at lunch.”

Like many other newcomers to the area, Pizza Studio set up shop in Dinkytown because of its proximity to campus, but it’s also ideal for serving surrounding neighborhoods, said Chief Operating Officer Hank Simpson.

The other Stadium Village and Dinkytown pizza options don’t worry Pizza Studio, he said, because of the eatery’s unique concept.

“Obviously, pizza is a very popular item in all cities,” he said. “We just think we bring something a little unique to the pizza space with the create-your-own style of pizza.”

Mesa Pizza, also located on Fourth Street Southeast, is about a block down from the new restaurant. Its employees say they don’t feel much pressure from the newcomers, said counter manager Jenny Dotson.

“From a business standpoint, it might be competition, but it’s nothing that isn’t healthy,” she said. “Plus we’ve been here for a really long time, and I do believe that Mesa Pizza is a staple student food.”

Pizza Studio has some limitations. For example, it doesn’t deliver or serve by the slice, and its customer can only purchase an 11-inch pizza — no larger. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m., depending on the day of the week.

Most of Pizza Studio’s nearly 40 employees are students from the University and surrounding colleges, general manager Gary Moss said.

The Dinkytown location employs more people than most of its other locations to accommodate their schedules, he said.

One of those employees, psychology sophomore Rauol Moore, spent much of last week learning, cleaning and preparing for the pizzeria’s opening with his new co-workers.

Though he’s a recent Illinois transplant, he said he thinks the restaurant fits in well in Dinkytown because it contributes to the variety of foods available in the area.

“It’s as quick as Chipotle with the same food as Dominos,” he said.