If you’ve been fortunate enough to sample the exquisite pizza of Vytauras Sasnauskas – Chef V to his friends – at any of Americano Bistro’s weekly happy hours, where he used to work as chef-partner, or, more recently, Velvet Tango Room, where the itinerant chef sets up shop on the back patio for monthly pizza parties, then you know how skilled he is.
Come autumn, a much wider audience will discover the chef’s unique talents when Citizen Pie
, a small pizza-focused café, opens up shop in Collinwood. Sasnauskas’ partners in the venture are Claudia Young and VTR owner Paulius Nasvytis.
“When I left Americano I said that I wasn’t going back in this business,” Sasnauskas says. “But the one thing I always wanted to do was pizza, so I said I’ll give it a try.”
The pizzeria will be dedicated to crafting some of the finest Neapolitan-style pizza around. That means wild yeast, naturally fermented sour dough crusts, and an Italian wood-fired brick oven, around which everything else will be designed.
“When I was looking to do this 10 years ago, there were only 16 of these ovens in the whole country, but now they are more widely available,” the chef says of his already-spoken-for Stefano Ferrara brick oven from Naples.
The lunch and dinner menu will be hyper-focused on pizza, with likely six regular pies, one seasonal pie and two calzones. Salad may or may not be part of the equation. There will be a very limited beer and wine selection. “Ragu Sunday dinners” might be added down the road.
“My thing is to pursue perfection,” says partner Young. “Why would you want to undertake this huge menu where you do everything mediocre? Why don’t you make your menu smaller and focus on hitting it out of the park. Vytauras is a great cook, a wonderful chef, but he’s a pizza savant – it’s his thing. His pizza is flawless.”
Citizen Pie will open in the former home of Blitz BBQ (15710 Waterloo Rd.), the long-awaited but ultimately short-lived Collinwood venture. The restaurant will feature a “revolutionary theme,” says Young, with pictures of Spartacus, Napoleon Bonaparte, Che Guevara, Joan of Arc and Lenin plastering the walls. Punk rock will be playing on the sound system.
“The revolutionary vibe reaches back to Vytauras growing up in Soviet ruled Lithuania,” explains Young.
Of course, both Vytauras and his partner, Paulius Nasvytis, share a Lithuanian heritage.
Look for Citizen Pie to open its doors in September.