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Wolfgang Puck opens Pizza Bar

Casual-dining concept has four units planned, Puck looks to potential nationwide expansion

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck added a new casual-dining concept to his growing empire last week with the opening of Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar in Charlotte, N.C., one of four units planned as a test.

The 120-seat restaurant focuses on hand-crafted pizzas featuring a new style of artisan dough that takes nine days to produce. Also on the menu are soups, salads, appetizers, pastas, sandwiches and grilled items. The bar features custom cocktails, regional wines and local craft beers.

Joe Essa, managing partner of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, said the Pizza Bar in Charlotte is the first test unit, and if successful the more accessible brand will grow to more cities nationwide.

A second Pizza Bar is currently under construction in Greensboro, N.C., and the company plans to open the concept in San Diego and Palm Desert, Calif., he said.

“Wolfgang has always wanted to find a casual-dining concept that reflected his brand of quality dining and hospitality, but at a lower price point, and we think this is it,” Essa said.

Puck has three casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro locations — in Los Angeles; Costa Mesa, Calif.; and Tulsa, Okla. — but that concept is somewhat more upscale, Essa said.

Currently, Pizza Bar is open for dinner only, which has an average check of between $24 and $26. Once lunch service is offered in August, the total average check is expected to total between $16 and $22, only slightly higher than the $9 to $13 average check of the fast-casual Wolfgang Puck Express locations.

The company operates or licenses about 66 Express units, many of which are in airports. Wolfgang Puck Worldwide also includes the fine-dining group, a massive catering operation, as well as Puck’s licensed retail products, cookware and cookbooks.

Scott Wallen, who served previously as executive chef at the restaurant Upstream in Charlotte, was named executive chef at Pizza Bar. Wallen also worked for Puck in the past at Postrio Bar & Grill in Las Vegas, one of the 21 fine-dining restaurants Puck operates across the country.

Puck has long been known for his pizza, available at most of his restaurants in some form. The company also operates a Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria & Cucina in Las Vegas, which is included in the fine-dining group.

The Pizza Bar, however, is the first to use the new artisanal dough, which Essa said has a “chewy characteristic with lots of flavor, even before you put on toppings.” The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven.

In other Puck news, his iconic restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills, Calif., which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is closing July 9 for a complete remodel of the décor and menu.

Spago is scheduled to reopen in the fall.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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