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Paulie Gee's Planning Nationwide Expansion, a 'Brotherhood of Pizza Enthusiasts'
2013 isn't done in big pizza news: Eater reported this morning that Paulie Gee is working on expanding to cities across the U.S., including a Baltimore location already in process, but also as many as "seven other cities" such as Chicago, Oakland, Las Vegas, and Portland. These expansions are still in the early planning stage, at least a year away from opening.
Paulie himself is staying put in Greenpoint as he expands his original space to include the lot next door. Rather than jump between all the other locations, he's teaming up with partners in each city, including our very own Adam Kuban, who's been making pies at Paulie's since May, for the Portland restaurant. "I'm looking to match up the right person with the right community," Paulie told me. "And I'm looking to help other people experience the great things I've been experiencing the past few years."
"I've enjoyed being my own boss," he continued, which is the same experience he wants to give his partners. The new restaurants will be branded as Paulie Gee's, focus on being neighborhood spaces like the Greenpoint original, and will use the same recipes and equipment. But each regional partner will exercise creative control over their restaurants and will put their own spins and pies into the mix. "A lot of these people are those who've worked in my own restaurant....I'm hoping they'll share ideas with each other, too. I'm looking to make a brotherhood of pizza enthusiasts."
Adam shared some comments by email, which should, among other things, give you the answer to "why Portland":
The only words I can think of now are "HOLY" and "CRAP." I started apprenticing (somewhat) quietly at Paulie's with this as a possible goal. It's one thing to go from a seed of an idea to some follow-through to ... HOLY CRAP, IT'S OUT THERE, NOW I HAVE TO DO IT.
The timeframe is still TBD, since we haven't actually started actively looking for a space. There's still a lot to do between funding, finding a spot, moving cross country, and a million other things that have me slightly terrified. Like with my training at Paulie's, I've just been trying to set and hit small goals (like cooking one pizza perfectly, then two at a time, then four) that will eventually add up to the whole enchilada. Even now, I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic, because I realize you have to be INSANE to try to open a restaurant. Somehow, nobody has talked me out of it yet—not even my wife, who has been amazingly supportive in this whole thing as I work long hours to learn the ropes.
If it works out, it would be kind of full circle in a couple of ways. First, the idea of Slice actually began as a prototype of a printed 'zine in Portland. Granted, I never actually got beyond a mock-up (which I wish I would have kept), but I had the idea for doing a pizza-themed publication named "Slice" back in 1998 or so, while I was living there. Second, here is the comment thread that started it all.
This also explains why I have been largely absent from Slice in the last year. Once I started working at Paulie's, I didn't want to continue doing reviews, as it seemed like a conflict of interest. And I sort of kept this under my hat and didn't blog about it from the usual "Read About My Stage at XYZ Restaurant" angle because I didn't want my coworkers at Paulie's thinking I was just doing it for blog fodder. Ideally I didn't want any of them to even know I had any affiliation with Slice/SE because I didn't want to come across as an entitled interloper (even though essentially I am still an interloper). I went in fully expecting to keep my head down and get my ass kicked, and at times I did—and still do.
For a little more history, here's a photo of Adam meeting Paulie at Totonno's where they first discussed Adam apprenticing at Paulie's restaurant.