A restaurant owner in Englewood hit a roadblock, took a U-turn, and ended up with the newly opened U Pie Company.
All puns aside, Charles Hamade opened a Mexican restaurant where his Wild Ginger restaurant used to be in Englewood's central business district. It opened for a little over a month "and the food was fantastic," he says, but the chef left for personal reasons.
"So I closed it again, found another great chef and changed it to U Pie Company," says the ever-optimistic Hamade.
The chef, Philipo Philipos, formerly worked at Scalini Fedeli in Chatham, where he made pizzas and breads.
"I had been courting him for a while," Hamade says. "I tried to bring him to work for me before, but he wasn't ready. I called him up again after the Mexican restaurant closed, and this time he was ready."
Philipos is the "centerpiece" of the restaurant, standing behind a main counter where he forms each pie and tops it with a customer's selected ingredients.
The simple menu features six basic options: margherita, traditional, farmers, bianca, rose, and shiitake. But a wide variety of other toppings — including unusual items such as eggplant miso, zaatar, Mission figs with a balsamic glaze, and truffle oil — allow for much creative personalization.
Since opening in early March, U Pie Company is doing very well, Hamade says.
"People are waiting outside on line for our pies. It's unbelievable," he says.
Grand-opening prices may also be an incentive: lunch prices are $5.95 for any item, with other low-price options for dinner.
"There is nothing like it around here," Hamade says. "It's just a simple square little pie, but the thin crust is just phenomenal."
"The dough has no conditioners so it stretches — it's just flour, water and a starter made from old dough, the old-fashioned way," he says.
Hamade heaps praise on his chef: "Good pizza is really about the energy of the person who is making it. … Philipo gives you food from the heart."
The interior of U Pie Company is "very casual," Hamade says. "I changed the tables and chairs, made it more like a trattoria."
The restaurant offers a small selection of other dishes, including some pastas, soups and salads, but the pizzas are the highlights. The dessert menu features a variety of pies, and lucky customers will get a plate of Philipos' zeppole nestled in a heap of powdered sugar.
The name "U Pie Company" came from a casual dinner conversation that Hamade had with his wife and daughters. The name evolved from My Pie to U Pie "because you make your pie your own way," he says.
Some unusual customer requests so far have included a pizza topped with pineapple, jalapeño peppers, chicken and ham — "and she liked it," Hamade says, laughing.
The biggest challenge so far, he says, has been finding good help to serve customers.
"But the best part," he says, "has been seeing people have fun and enjoying the food."
* 6 E. Palisade Ave., Englewood; 201-567-2680
* Cuisine: Pizza and pasta
* Entrées: $5.95 to $8.95; toppings are extra
* Hours/days: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
* Credit cards: All major
* Wine/liquor: BYO
* Parking: Street and municipal garage
Starters is a first look at recently opened restaurants. It is meant to be a descriptive glimpse, not a critical review. Send suggestions for Starters to email@example.com.