If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant (or have friends who work in restaurants, or even if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant) you won’t be surprised to learn that a lot of “artistic types” end up in food service. You may find them getting creative with the cooking or the serving or the dishwashing, but they are always there.
Ian’s Pizza is no exception; we end up with artists of all kinds in all levels of our organization. So given our leanings, is it any wonder that we’ve turned one big wall at our new location on State Street into a gallery? For real. In a somewhat uncreative – yet entirely truthful – moment, we named our gallery, “The Wall at Ian’s Pizza on State,” and every six months a UW art student will be awarded a solo show, the bragging rights to winning, “The Second Best Art Award Ever” (more zippy naming on our part, ahem…) and a nice little $500 scholarship.
Our very first winner, Helen Hawley, has been hard at work on her piece, and got a nice write-up in the local paper as well. (http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/visual/a-different-kind-of-audience-for-artwork/article_324a26a0-ac23-11e1-844d-001a4bcf887a.html).
This is not the first time we’ve employed our artist friends; if you’ve seen the bathrooms at our E. North Street Milwaukee location or noticed the custom illustrated posters around every Ian’s you know what we’re talking about. We love our artists – both behind the counter and not!
Hello! I know it’s been a while since I rapped at ya, but that’s because things have been so darn busy! I hope you’ve been following Ian’s Pizza on State on Facebook to see the pictorial step-by-step build-out of a restaurant. If you think moving yourself is a pain, you should try an entire restaurant; it’ll give you a whole new appreciation of all the stuff you don’t need to do during Madison’s city-wide move in mid-August.
For one thing, you don’t have to wait for the fire inspector to come through and give you the okay on whether or not you can turn your oven on the morning you’re hoping to move in. Believe me, without our ovens we’d be stuck with a whole lot of raw dough. Turns out, it’s not nearly as good uncooked; who knew?
But we haven’t forgotten our friends in Milwaukee; we’ve got special things happening for them too. Our second location in MKE is being renovated right now and we hope to be open there (146 E. Juneau Ave., in the heart of Water Street) in mid-June-ish. Again, depending how construction (and the ensuing fire inspection) goes, it could be sooner, it could be later. The best way to keep track, and also to get chances to win free pizza and sweet Ian’s merch, sign up for Ian’s Pizza Milwaukee Facebook and Twitter (@IansPizzaMKE).
Been to the new space? Excited for a new place in Milwaukee? Want to discuss fire inspections or why every person moves on the same date in August in Madison? Write to email@example.com and holla at us… we’ll holla atchu back.
Everyone talks about the pizza, and rightfully so – it’s tasty stuff. But if you are repeatedly passing by the salad bar at any Ian’s Pizza restaurant, you are doing yourself a great disservice.
This is not a vegetable-based lecture, by the way. It’s a dressing-based call to action, spurred by this month’s specialty dressing: French Dressing.
If you, like me, are not usually a fan of the sweet-ish dressings, this is a life-changing event. It’s a perfect balance of savory and a hint of sweet, along with a sprinkle of magic and handfuls of awesomeness thrown in (you can actually see the awesomeness – it shows up as black flecks).
If your only experience with French Dressing has come from a bottle — the violently orange store-bought versions made with high fructose corn syrup and Porpylene Glycol Alginate – you need to rush into the nearest Ian’s and order a salad just to taste what real dressing is.
May I suggest you start with the French Dressing while it’s available (just three more weeks!)…
It is hard to believe that just one year ago this week Ian’s Pizza on State was in the middle of what will likely be the craziest time of our pizza lives. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were gathering right out our front door, and hundreds of people from around the globe were calling us to donate pizza to feed them.
We were working from 6am to 12am, utilizing everyone on staff (and their friends and families!), picking up truckloads of water, taking truckloads of pizzas to the capital, answering phones nonstop while also trying to introduce ourselves to a world who suddenly loved us but had no idea who we were and what we stood for as a company.
Things are a little quieter outside these days. There are still protesters and folks hold singalongs every day right up the block, but for the most part it’s really a very normal February in downtown Madison. While we are enjoying this quiet time of the year, we are continually grateful for the opportunities we had last year and for all the amazing people we met (and continue to meet) because of the protests.
So… thank you. Thank you for all the good conversation, the great interactions, the faith you placed in us, and for your ongoing support. It means the world to us.
Have you ever painted your living room, and agonized over just what shade of ecru/off-white/neutral/ivory/cream would best highlight your favorite “Howling Wolf in Moonlight” poster? Now imagine trying to come up with a color scheme that blends the awesomeness that is a 110-year-old historic bank building with a hip, high-energy pizza/salad quick service restaurant.
On one hand, you’ve got elaborate crown moldings, sky-high tray ceilings, and elegant Grecian columns. On the other hand you’ve got a huge bright red logo, images based on graphic novels, and a staff that leans toward super-friendly, pierced, & tattooed.
So that’s what’s happening with our move right now… we’re trying to figure out paint color, flooring, and how it all will look as it comes together. Figuring out the equipment is way easier: coolers to keep salad cool, ovens to get pizza hot, serve it all fast, and repeat. This interior design stuff is hard!
It’s true, it’s true!
Ian’s Pizza on State, now at 115 State Street in downtown Madison, will be moving across the street to 100 State Street (the old Children’s Museum location) later this spring.
Why, you ask, would a restaurant move basically across the street? (Because, you know, pizza ovens are HEAVY — and we’re pretty sure our friends will be out of town if we ask for help with those.)
We do have a really nice space now — we’ve been there since July 2005 and expanded in January 2007 — but the building across the street still has some advantages…
It is bigger and will give us a chance to install more heavy ovens (faster service!) and a bigger salad bar (this makes me personally swoon!!!), has a space for private dining (you’ll be able to book it for birthdays, meetings, weddings, Arbor Day celebrations, whatever you want…), is on the sunny side of the street for our patio (a mixed blessing in August, we know…), a chance to experiment with a very ecologically-friendly restaurant renovation (maybe heating our restaurant with “recycled” oven heat, among other things), and it has a vault in the basement! A vault! You know, for, well, we don’t really know what we’ll do with a vault, but it’s pretty darn cool, you have to admit.
We’ve got a lot of other stupendous ideas floating around too, so stay tuned! We’ll do our best to keep you updated in this here blog (except for that weekend they are moving the ovens, I’ll be out of town then).
Anytime we see an article entitled, “The Unsung Benefits of Beer and Cheese” we know we’re in for a good read. Well, as it turns out, we were not disappointed.
The good scientists in Italy have found that the health benefits of a couple of pints are similar to that found in an equal amount of wine. Meanwhile, our lovely friends in Denmark have found that eating cheese raises LDL (the bad kind of cholesterol) far less than other animal fats like butter.
Carry on, Wisconsin!
Are you in Chicago the first weekend in November?
How do you feel about not-quite-mainstream author events?
If you answered, “Yes!” and, “Really positive!” you’ll want to swing by our Ian’s Pizza Wrigleyville location and meet Mike Edison, author and all-around colorful character, as he hangs out and does whatever he wants in our restaurant on Saturday, November 5th at 7:00pm.
He’ll be there to talk about his new book, “Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!” along with New York Superstar Piano Wizard (Mike’s description) Mickey Finn. We’ll also try to coerce him into the kitchen to try his hand at making our pizza homage to him, a special featuring seafood gumbo and Andouille sausage.
Judging by his past employment (editor of both High Times and Screw Magazines, in addition to a truckload of other various and sundry gigs) he’ll be up for almost anything.
Which, as you know, is just how we like our fanatics!
At Ian’s Pizza, we strive to practice Servant Leadership.
“Okay,” you say, “That sounds swell. But what exactly is Servant Leadership?”
We’re glad you asked!
Essentially it is the philosophy that says management best serves its employees (along with the company and the community) by acting as support and giving employees what they need to succeed. This is very different from the more common hierarchical business model where orders come down from above and workers just follow direction.
It’s a more holistic view of the workplace, taking into account the needs and well-being of the people who work there. Not just out of the goodness of management’s heart, but because the more involved workers are, and the more they feel valued and respected, they better they will do their job, ultimately resulting in a better experience for the customer (and everyone else, really).
It’s not a new concept — Robert Greenleaf first coined the phrase in 1970, and countless excellent books have been written about it since. And while it sounds pretty involved for a pizza by the slice joint that specializes in feeding late-night customers (who are not necessarily the quietest group of folks, by the way…) we say it’s all the more reason to give our workers some respect. Their jobs are not easy and the management knows that, since they’ve spent years doing that front line work themselves.
The restaurant industry in particular is known for its “churn & burn” philosophy of using people up, then just hiring fresh meat. None of that leads to a quality environment for either the public or the company culture, and we wanted to do it differently.
As we see what’s happening all around us these days, we’re thinking maybe it’s time for businesses to try collaboration, empathy, and an ethical use of power as a model for running their company. Just a thought.
This past month we were flattered to learn The Food Network Magazine named our Mac n’ Cheese slice the best pizza in Wisconsin and one of the 50 best pizzas in the United States. While Ian’s features many great slices, the Mac n’ Cheese has (literally) put us on the culinary map. No other slice is more adored, more requested, or more copied by other pizzerias across Madison and Wisconsin.
So the question everyone always asks (naturally) is, “Who invented this gift to little kids and hungry bar hoppers everywhere?”
The answer is, “I don’t know.” A version of the Mac n’ Cheese, made with hamburger, was occasionally featured at one of the two pizzerias where I worked in Massachusetts. In 2005, a student from California told me he had grown up eating Mac n’ Cheese pizza from a place in his hometown. There are so many recipes for Mac n’ Cheese pizza on the internet, pinpointing the inventor is by now probably impossible.
The history of Mac n’ Cheese pizza at Ian’s, on the other hand, is very clear. Before we opened Ian’s Pizza, I had a gut feeling the Mac n’ Cheese pizza would be a hit. We opened our doors on October 31st, 2001 and one week or so later we served the slice as a special. Initially, the reaction was mixed. Mostly people couldn’t quite get their heads around the idea of macaroni and cheese on a pizza. The people who did try the slice, however, were hooked. The next day, I made the decision to add Mac n’ Cheese to our regular menu and within a month our reputation as “the place that serves Mac n’ Cheese pizza” was cemented. In 2005, then Wisconsin Governor Jim, Doyle suggested Ian’s to a group of grade school kids visiting the capitol, “Go to Ian’s, they have Mac n’ Cheese pizza.” The following year, while taping College Jeopardy at the Kohl Center, Alex Trebek came in to try the slice for himself. And, it seems like almost every year someone decides to make a Mac n’ Cheese pizza costume for Halloween.
Over the years, we’ve experimented using different cheeses and herbs to see if we could improve the recipe. Every time we’ve made the Mac n’ Cheese slice with an aged cheddar or different noodle, your feedback was the same: I like the original recipe better. The “original recipe” calls for creme fraiche, macaroni noodles, mozzarella cheese, and Wisconsin cheddar. I think our crust pairs particularly well with the slice, but you be the judge.
This year we celebrate our 10th anniversary, and certainly the Mac n’ Cheese slice is part of our success. Of course, our success simply would not be without your support. Thank you!