Coal-fired pizza coming to downtown White Bear Lake

WHITE BEAR LAKE — The secret is out. A coal-fired pizza restaurant called Pezzo per Pezzo is moving into the former Decoys/Jameson’s space on the corner of Highway 61 and Fourth Street.

A family familiar to White Bear is part of the endeavor, which will follow a formula for success developed by a Chicago-area pizzeria.

In a letter of intent to the city, co-owners Jim Kowalski, Kristin Kowalski-Christiansen and Gary Bougie described Pezzo as an independently owned restaurant tailored after the original Slyce pizzeria located in Wauconda, Ill. Pezzo per Pezzo means piece by piece in Italian.

Jim Kowalski’s brother Bob addressed the City Council Aug. 13, noting his family’s supermarket has been in White Bear Lake for 28 years. “It’s a great city to work with and we’re proud to be part of the community,” Kowalski said. “White Bear treats businesses very well.” He then introduced Bougie, a St. Paul native who opened Slyce in suburban Chicago three years ago.

“White Bear fits our story,” Bougie said. “We are a small business near a big city. The town and space spoke to us.”

Like Slyce, Pezzo will bake its pizzas in a coal-fired oven, which uses clean-burning anthracite coal and heats to a temperature between 850 to 900 degrees. The cooking method results in a crisp, slightly smokey flavored crust that stands up well to most toppings.

According to Bougie, the original pizzas made in the United States were coal-fired. The restaurant will also offer Chicago-style deep dish and a full bar with a focus on craft beer and wine.

Councilman Dan Jones welcomed Bougie and added he’s been “bugging Anne (Community Development Director Anne Kane) to get a coal-fired pizza place in White Bear Lake.”

The old Decoy’s was practically gutted in the remodel, Bougie told the council. “We’ve torn down more walls than we put up. It’s brand new top to bottom and the kitchen is open, which is a big part of our belief.” The restaurant will have a contemporary feel, he added, “like you’d see in Minneapolis or Chicago.”

Moderately priced, Pezzo will offer made-from-scratch food in a casual setting. The 7,000 foot space will seat about 180 inside and 40 outside on a patio. It will be open six days a week for dinner, closed Monday, and possibly open for lunch at a later date.

A mid-November opening is planned.