Just weeks after announcing a nationwide expansion of his acclaimed Brooklyn pizzeria, Paulie Gee's—with Slice founder Adam Kuban due to head up a Portland outpost, no less—Paulie is ready to publicize another familiar addition to his growing "brotherhood of pizza enthusiasts."
Familiar, that is, if you frequent Slice, where you'd be hard-pressed to miss Derrick Tung's photogenic contributions to My Pie Monday. Back in March, Tung kicked off his first foray into commercial pizza-making with the launch of Za Pi, a mobile oven operation that's been catering Chicago events and churning out pies at local Illinois farmer's markets. Now he's preparing to step into a more stationary role, manning the ovens (and staff) at the upcoming Paulie Gee's Chicago.
It's a big step for the health care professional, but one he's been gearing up to for some time. When he reached out to fellow Slice regular Paulie Gee early last year, Tung was looking for mentorship and advice. But given their shared passion and expertise, it wasn't long before the two began talking about formalizing their relationship.
"An opportunity to work with someone as nationally renowned as Paulie is obviously really exciting on its own," Tung explained. "But what makes it special is finding someone who didn't fly in from Italy as a trained pizzaiolo. Starting out as self-taught home pizza-makers, turning that passion into a professional, career-changing pursuit, gives us a common bond."
With a lease pending in Chicago's West Town and a signature sun-emblazoned Stefano Ferrara in the works, the pair are looking to open doors in early-to-mid summer. And while Paulie Gee's classics will still be on offer, Tung says he and fellow expanders will have "the latitude to create pies that reflect our own identities, too." Given his Chinese-American background and penchant for experimentation, we can expect some Asian-inflected pies on Tung's menu, but Chicago-influenced ingredients like Italian beef are in the running, too.
Is he intimidated to take the leap? "It really is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time getting ready to open up a restaurant," said Tung. "It's a dream come true, and I can't wait to start serving up some of Paulie Gee's pizzas as well as some other Midwest-centric and Asian influenced pizzas."
Be sure to stay tuned for an upcoming Pizza Obsessive with the budding pizza pro!
- Paulie Gee on Belief, Baltimore, and Being Your Own Boss
- Greenpoint, Brooklyn: Paulie Gee's
- An Evening with Paulie Gee, Pizza Madman
About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.