The work could be seen through their windows for months and now Green Zone Pizza is open--adding a casual dining option to the Village in the City of Grosse Pointe. The pizzeria offers, pizza of course but also sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and more.
The 35-seat restaurant offers diners a variety of pizzas, including the use of organic ingredients, and gluten free options. Owner Markus Wiederkehr said the first two days of being open have been fairly busy considering they simply unlocked the door Wednesday without fanfare or announcements.
Wiederkehr is excited to have reached this point with the restaurant, which has a local bent and a focus on being environmentally responsible by eliminating, or getting as close as possible to eliminating its carbon footprint.
While the physical address is 17008 Kercheval Ave. the entrance faces Notre Dame Street. It is nestled between Coldwater Creek and the pedestrian walk that leads to Trader Joes. Wiederkehr says the location is ideal because it attracts a lot of foot traffic--something evidenced by the number of visits in the first two days of being open.
He said there has been some confusion about his restaurant leading up its opening. "We are a traditional, Italian pizza shop but we offer healthy options," he said, giving examples of whole wheat crust and gluten-free.
Thus far, the California Pizza has been the most popular, featuring sundried tomatos, roasted garlic, spinach, red onion, mozzerella and fresh herbs, Wiederkehr said.
In addition to the meal options, that include sandwiches, salads and appetizers, Green Zone offers beer and wine options and carries many selections from local breweries and wineries. There is also a locally brewed sweet tea option and Green Zone is purchasing all of its organic flour for crusts from Avalon Bakery in Detroit and all natural potato chips from Better Made.
Two features Wiederkehr believes will help set him apart from other restaurants are the short amount of time it takes to cook the pizzas and a wine tasting unit. Using a special technology oven, Wiederkehr said pizzas take three minutes to cook from the moment they are put in the oven, this means there will not be long waits or delays in service. It also makes walk-in carry-out service appealing.
The unit is a small box that holds eight bottles of wine at any given time. It allows for customers to pay for a wine tasting session and they fill their glass with each type they want to taste, he said. People could create their own combinations and schedule a wine-tasting night with their friends, he said, noting the idea is to make Green Zone fun and sociable.
His head chef, John Rodenich, designed the menu, which includes several signature pizzas, such as the Michigan Cherry BBQ Chicken, the Vegetarians Delight or the Maui Wowie. There is also the Perfect Pepperoni and a build your own pizza option. Sandwiches include a California Turkey, a Shrimp Po Boy and a Veggie. And there are appetizers too.
The team of 15 employees, including one full-time manager who grew up in the Pointes, was trained before the restaurant opened--both on service standards and the organic and environmentally green focus.
The building has been designed and built-out in an environmentally conscious manner. The flooring is made of recycled materials, chemical free paints, bamboo tables, LED lighting and efficient water flushing in the bathrooms. The dinnerware is also compostable, for which there is a recepticle sandwiched between the trash and recycling cans.
Had the location not been part of a two-story building, Wierderkehr said he would have used solar-panel roofing as well. He is working with his builder, Ron LaTiff, to obtain LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification--and if he gets it, he'll be the first restaurant in all of Michigan to hold one, he said, noting the efficiency levels required for the certification are rarely achiveable by most restaurants.
Wierderkehr says nearly everything in the resataurant is compostable--from plates and utensils to water bottles and pizza boxes. He is hoping its presence will act as an educational tool and highlight the importance of being more environmentally aware. The bins of compostables will be taken to the Detroit community gardens downtown, he said.
The restaurant is also decorated with photographs and artwork, all of which are for sale. Both people with work on display were recommended to Wierderkehr, who intentionally did not include televisions in his restaurant.
"It's casual. There are no rules," he said. "I want people to talk to each other."
He's already had inquiries from people about hosting private parties at Green Zone. Eventually, Wiederkehr plans to offer classes to young children on Saturdays during which the children will get to make their own pizza while learning about organic ingredients and making healthy eating choices. In addition to lunch, each child will receive tee-shirts, he said.
Green Zone will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Wiederkehr said this could change once he has an idea of traffic patterns but this is where they are beginning.