David Bauer of Farm & Sparrow bakery has been holding out on us. Sure, he's provided Asheville with chewy, crusty, tangy breads for the past 6 1/2 years, but for himself, he's been making pizza.
“Any baker with a wood-fire oven eats a lot of pizza because you've got a fire right there and you've always got dough,” he says. “It's a really basic, elemental food where the flavor of the flour really matters and the flavors of the toppings matter, yet it's simple.”
Come spring, Bauer will bring his pizzas to Asheville. He's teamed up with Brendan Reusing, who, until a couple of days ago, was the chef at Laurey's on Biltmore Avenue. (He was also one of the founders of Lantern in Chapel Hill.)
Their restaurant, All Souls Pizza, will serve “good, solid food,” as Reusing slates it, from the Clingman Avenue building that recently housed The Asheville Public and, before that, The Silver Dollar diner.
The restaurant will be casual and comfortable even though it includes foods that many people might describe as artisan: fresh-made mozzarella, house-milled grains, homemade pasta, in-house charcuterie and smoked meats and vegetables. “In this kind of crazy new food movement, that stuff has been put on a pedestal, but this is really old-style stuff that we're trying to do,” Reusing says. “It's been done for hundreds and thousands of years. [We're] kind of bringing it back down.”
Bauer has a thing for heirloom grains and vegetables. He's fascinated with the overlap between Appalachian cookery and rustic, Mediterranean cuisine. While flipping through a Turkish cookbook, he was interested to find a recipe for collards and cranberry beans, which reminded him of some very traditional, Southern dish. He hopes to explore these similarities on the All Souls menu. “I try not to get penned in,” he says. “If people really force us to try and describe it, I would say that we're using a rustic Mediterranean approach to cooking to explore all these traditional, Southern varieties of grains and legumes.”
He started exploring the concept for the restaurant in the bakery, and realized he had developed more products than he knew what to do with. “I had the foundation of a whole menu,” he says. “We're able to mill three, four different types of native, mountain Indian corn for polenta and things like that, but we can only do so much with it here. We're making traditional 18th century Italian rye pasta with varieties of rye that came to Appalachia from Italy in the 1600, but what do we do with it at Farm and Sparrow?”
But Bauer isn't leaving the bakery for All Souls. He will continue to attend farmers markets (this winter, he's at the Woodfin YMCA market), and Farm & Sparrow bread will remain on the shelves at local grocery stores.
Reusing and Bauer are shooting to open All Souls Pizza in late spring or early summer. Their plans for the RAD diner building include adding a wood-fire pizza oven that will become a centerpiece of the restaurant. They also promise to make good use of the large lawn adjacent to the building.
Around the corner on Depot Street, the owners of White Duck Taco Shop are planning to open Pizza Pura, which will also include a wood-fire oven. But Bauer isn't worried about competition between the two restaurants. “The River Arts District is a big corridor that connects downtown and West Asheville, and there's so many people coming through,” he says. “I think we'll each have our customers. I think we'll both do really well.”
If you want to get a slice of the All Souls Pizza action, Bauer and Reusing are accepting small investments from locals through pre-sale gift certificates. The vouchers come in increments of $250. Once the restaurant opens, they will be redeemable for 105 to 110 percent of their value in All Souls Pizza products.
For more information about the micro investment plan, contact Farm and Sparrow Bakery at 633-0584.