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Rising like dough from the now-shuttered site of The Shed at 475 Bill Kennedy Way SE, Detroit-style pizzeria Emmy Squared will bring deep-dish, saucy pies to Atlanta in March. Like mozzarella cheese and dough carmelize together into the “frico” crust along the edges of Detroit-style pizzas, the franchise that grew from a little Brooklyn pizzeria aims to coalesce the consistency and quality afforded by a corporation with the kitsch, charm and sense of community of the neighborhood pizza joint where they began at each of their locations.
Founders Matt and Emily Hyland first started selling round, New York-style pizzas in Brooklyn at Pizza Loves Emily in 2014. The pair’s “very backdoor entry into Detroit-style pizza” began with an appreciation for variations of focaccia and grandma pies they made after work, in pans from their oven at home—as Emily Hyland told What Now Atlanta, “just enjoying dough, cheese and sauce in a pan.”
The two began ordering and studying the makeup of pies from Buddy’s Rendevous in Detroit, the establishment that pioneered the first Detroit-style pizzas using automotive drip pans in 1946. Originally planning to veer toward Sicilian pies for their next pizza venture, the pair opted for something that more closely resembled Buddy’s pizza in favor of a deeper pan and, therefore, an airier center.
But their final product, which has spread to two more locations in New York City and sites in Nashville, Louisville, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., deviates from the traditional Detroit pie. Instead of using grated Wisconsin brick cheese, their pies are made with softer mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and focaccia dough that is proofed for 48 hours.
Their ingredients, said Hyland, are sourced “thoughtfully,” with both quality and a preference for small businesses in mind. Artisanal honey for Emmy’s best-selling pie, “The Colony,” made with jalapenos, pepperoni and honey, is sourced from Zach and Zoe’s Sweet Bee farm. Their executive chef Sean McPaul spent time “scrutinizing” a slew of different pepperoni brands before landing on the one that was just right. Their double-stacked “Le Big Matt” burger is made with grass-fed beef from Bear Creek Farms in Tennessee that were added to the recipe after a long search for the right patties—since, the burger has been hailed as the best burger in Nashville by the Tennessean and was named “#1 Best Burger in Nashville,” voted one of “The Best New Burgers in NYC” by Gothamist, and listed as one of the “20 Best Burgers in NYC” by The Infatuation.
“We’re known for our pizza but our burger rivals our pizza,” said partner and CEO Howard Greenstone. “You come for the pizza, you stay for the burger.”
Atlanta was the next logical step for the Emmy Squared brand, said Greenstone, both due to its geographical continuity with their current territory and his experience in the city. Greenstone was formerly President of Rosa Mexicano in Atlantic Station, which was suddenly shuttered in December of 2017.
Greenstone said that Emmy Squared locations tend to revamp, rather than entirely redo, the interiors of old restaurants. Without the requirement of a wood-fired stove, new equipment at the new site should be minimal, allowing for its swift opening.
“Every restaurant is designed completely differently,” Greenstone told What Now Atlanta. “Because we take over a lot of secondary restaurant space they naturally evolve. The concept [of Emmy Squared] is much more artisanal so I don’t want cookie-cutter restaurants.”
Each location, however, has core elements that tie it together. The company’s logo, a “one-dimensional stick figure lady pizza girl,” is always snuck onto a splash of wallpaper. Small dinosaur figurines, ones that you might get at the dollar store or in a coin-operated machine, live among the plants in each establishment.
“I guess that started in the original location—we had a rogue dinosaur that guarded the oven, and now we have them in each store. It’s playful and lighthearted, and that’s within our values,” said Hyland. “It really harkens back to me for nostalgia and childhood, which I think is a really important part of pizza-eating. I feel that way whenever I take a bite of pizza, and I want the ambiance to feel that way as well.”