Picture it: South Side, 2021.
After years in the fine dining business, chefs Matt Porco and Donnie Amman want to do their own thing; and if that means opening a pizza-and-rotisserie chicken restaurant with an entire wall dedicated to “The Golden Girls” then, by God and St. Olaf, so be it.
Doughbar Pizzeria & Rotisserie, located at 1831 E. Carson Street, will open for a sneak peek on March 13 and then close again for a week. After that, hours of operation will be Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 11 p.m.
Porco and Amman, formerly of Sienna Mercato and Emporio: A Meatball Joint — along with Chris Clark from Superior Motors — aren’t taking themselves too seriously when it comes to the eatery’s décor.
The 55,000-square-foot space once occupied by Steel Cactus Mexican Restaurant and Cantina now boasts humorous, graffiti-style artwork by Max Gonzales and Shane Pilster. A small section is dedicated to the ever-popular 1980s sitcom starring Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia.
The food and drink offerings, however, are no laughing matter.
The menu will feature pizzas and whole- or half-bird rotisserie chicken, wings, tenders, stone-baked hoagies and a variety of salads, sides and sauces.
Porco and Amman, who started their culinary careers making pizza, say they wanted to get back to their roots and create a fast-casual joint with a gourmet bite.
“I’ve reached a point in my career where I just want to make dough,” Porco says with a laugh. “If I could eat pizza every day I would … and since I own this place, I probably will.”
They’re experimenting with different recipes and, to start, will dish out sourdough pan pizzas and traditional New York-style pies. Eventually, the menu will expand to include Detroit and Chicago variations of the pie.
“Chicken is in the backseat, but the pizza is driving the concept,” Amman says, adding there will be a buffalo chicken pizza that combines the two worlds.
The dining room seats 90 patrons, with sidewalk seating coming this spring. A second-floor area will open for rooftop dining later this year and will eventually become Latenight at Doughbar featuring DJs and bottle service.
Behind the first-floor bar, which seats 32 and features 16 taps, Bar Manager JP Alton, another Sienna Mercato alum, will sling bottled and canned beers and $5 craft drafts from breweries across the country.
Fun drinks, including an Aperol Spritz, an Italian wine-based cocktail, and the tequila-centric Blood Orange Paloma, will be available in a single-serving glass or as a large beverage that two to four customers can share.
The owners hatched the Doughbar concept in November 2019, but Covid slowed their roll and pushed the grand opening back a year.
Porco says the extra time allowed them to tackle more of the project themselves and have fun with it. The eclectic décor — including a bank of poker machines in the back — is a nod to the South Side neighborhood, its old-school bars such as Dee’s Cafe and the diverse population, ranging from college kids and young professionals to artists and diehard fans of “The Golden Girls.”
The guys can’t wait to open their doors and tell all of their longtime supporters, “Thank you for being a friend.”