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Ben Godfrey, line cook at Pizza Envy in North Kingstown, tosses chicken wings in buffalo sauce. Pizza Envy has quickly become a popular summer go-to for its Detroit-style pizza, which owner Jonathan Beres used for inspiration when coming up with his own unique style of pie.

Rhode Islanders are well accustomed to pizza, from New York and Chicago-style to wood fired and coal fired, thin crust to thick crust and of course, the Ocean State’s signature pizza strips.

However, one style locals may be less familiar with is Detroit-style pizza, which is a rectangular shaped thick crust pie baked in well-seasoned rectangular steel pans, making for a crust that is chewy on the inside and crispy and caramelized on the outside. The increasingly popular style has been absent from the local market until earlier this year, when Pizza Envy, the brainchild of Chef Ryan Miller and Tilly’s Cheesesteaks owner Jonathan Beres, opened its doors for takeout and delivery orders.

“We were the first brick and mortar restaurant to open up concentrating just on that style in Rhode Island,” Beres said. “We do ours a little differently than Detroit, but the big thing about us as we draw inspiration from the pans that they use in Detroit, that’s really important.”

As Beres puts it, it’s the pan that truly makes the pie.

“It’s just all about the size and the depth of the pan and what it’s made out of, because they are really well seasoned and they have really high sides, so they lend to being able to caramelize the edges of our crust and melt that cheese to give us that super crispy, dark caramelized crust,” Beres said.

The process to creating Pizza Envy has been in the works for the past couple of years according to Beres, going back to when he first hired Miller to be a chef for Tilly’s.

“When I hired him to be a chef at Tilly’s, we kind of had a little bit of a background. We knew each other ahead of time, but I knew his passion was pizza,” Beres said. “I told him ‘give us a couple years, help us build Tilly’s and I promise you we’ll open up a pizza shop.’”

That opportunity began to present itself last winter, as Tilly’s Chik’n Biscuit in North Kingstown went under and the space was converted into a commissary kitchen doing prep work for Tilly’s locations in South Kingstown and Providence.

“The kitchen is full of people during the day doing all of the prep for the other restaurants, so we really needed to find something that we were able to do at night and we could do it with the equipment we had,” Beres said.

Additionally, a turn to pizza, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, made sense financially, both in terms of the kitchen they operate and the popularity of the dish.

“COVID was a big pressure point to open up the pizza shop as well, because it was something that worked in our space,” Beres said. “Pizza is pretty much the only (type of) restaurant making money during COVID and it’s great for pickup and delivery.”

Beres and Miller then set out on launching Pizza Envy, taking what Beres called a “punk rock” approach.

“It’s a very what we call ‘ punk rock‘ project because we didn’t go out and buy a bunch of new equipment, we didn’t really do anything else,” Beres said. “We got the pans we needed, (Miller) got an amazing deal recipe and a lot of other amazing recipes such as the sauce and we just use the equipment we had.”

Pizza Envy opened its doors in February, serving a set number of pizzas from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., or until supplies run out, every Wednesday through Sunday.

For Beres, he didn’t want to bite off more than he could chew, and wanted to ensure the pizza’s quality over quantity.

“We wanted to start slow,” Beres said. “We didn’t want to try and serve as many people as possible, we wanted to make sure that the quality and the product was great going out every single time, so right off the bat we made sure that we only made a certain amount of pies a night because all of the dough is fermented in the pan for a certain amount of time, so you can’t just make those on the fly like a normal tossed pizza, so we only serve so many.”

Sellouts do happen, Beres said, noting a Sunday in July where they had 60 pans ready to go and were already sold out by 6:30 p.m.

“Business has been really good,” Beres said.

Pizza Envy offers a variety of pies, from traditional offerings such as cheese, pepperoni and margherita, or Marge as they call it, to more creative offerings, such as the Angry Samoan, with house red sauce topped with a mozzarella and fontina cheese blend, pepperoni “Nduja,” shaved red onions, pineapple, pickled chiles and chives, and Bitchin Camaro, which is topped with garlic-miso cream and a low mo mozzarella and fontina blend with slow roasted herb pork shoulder, Mama Lil’s peppers, broccoli rabe and scallions. They also have a vegan offering and a build your own pizza, in addition to wings, sides, deserts and a plethora of beer, wine, seltzer and soft drink options, including their own Tilly’s Lemonade.

“We do everything from scratch, that’s really important, and putting out a Detroit inspired pie and being one of the first people in Rhode Island is really important to us, but also making sure that it’s all use with quality products and quality recipes is really important,” Beres said.

As the summer months have come, Beres said business has been steady in North Kingstown, with outdoor dining on their deck and the grassy area nearby joining the pickup and delivery options. In the future, he said he plans to utilize the indoor area more with seating and a full bar, as the location has a full liquor license, as well as maintaining the popular pick up and delivery options and working on expanding the business to other locations in Rhode Island and the nearby area.

“We really believe in the product that we put out,” Beres said. “We think there’s nothing like it in Rhode Island.”

Pizza Envy is located at 640 Boston Neck Road in North Kingstown and is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. or until product run out. To place an order, call (401) 522-9874 or order online at toasttab.com/pizzaenvy.

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