The name of the fifth and latest restaurant in the Treylor Park Restaurant Group’s lot is a bit of a misnomer. The ‘Party’ part is more than apropos, but do not think for one bite that this parlor serves just pizza.
Opened at the end of August, Pizza Party is a Treylor Park concept from bumper to bumper, a vibrant and immediately convivial eatery that is an even more overt homage to 80s than the group’s others. The boomboxes above the bar are not eBay bidding war wins. Co-owner Trey Wilder had kept them for years, almost knowing that they would one day adorn a place like this.
While Wilder and fellow co-owner Rick Kunzi said that this opening was relatively more turnkey than their others have been, the newness of this brand expansion is moving out of the city’s busiest squares.
“It’s been nice to get a little ways out of [downtown],” said Wilder. “It’s just refreshing, something new.”
Kunzi likened this venue to their Nocatee location, which he called “very community driven,” a restaurant that, according to Wilder, sees “a lot of regulars, a lot of families.”
Wilder said that the chief of one of the nearby Fire Stations stopped by a few days before Pizza Party opened. His outfit does Friday pizza lunches, and he asked for a menu.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
THE SLICE OF LIFE
What had been Savannah Fresh Catch and then had been a pizza project of Josh Yates (Green Truck Neighborhood Pub) lay fallow post-pandemic.
Wilder recalled, “Our real estate guy, Kim Iocovozzi, called me and said, ‘Hey, I think you need to see this space’,” even though he knew that Wilder, Kunzi, and TPRG co-owner and director of operations Sterling Usher were well underway with a project in in the heart of Historic St. Augustine, slated to open in mid-September.
“We would never do two spaces at one time in two different states,” Wilder said soberly. “It just doesn’t make sense. There’s three of us, so we’re kind of a small ownership group.”
Nevertheless, when Wilder saw the “eighty-five-percent done” property, still owned by Yates and replete with plans and approved inspections, Treylor Park was destined to take the pizza plunge.
And you tught you were busy.
“Because it was being spec’d out as a pizza place, we didn’t want to get really involved with reconstruction and repermitting,” he said, so the trio agreed on developing a pizza concept under their Airstream umbrella.
“We had been doing all of these flatbreads in the other restaurants,” Kunzi reasoned, “and Trey and I had been kicking around this idea. This was the perfect circumstance and just kind of came to fruition.”
In roughly a year’s time, they reoutfitted the kitchen, installing the equipment used at the other Treylor Park restos as well as a pizza conveyor oven, for which they already have plenty of plans that stretch far beyond just mozzarella.
“We’ve talked about putting our wings through there,” Wilder said. “It’s a triple-decker.”
Kunzi said that they had no intention of heading down the coal-oven or brick-oven pizza path; instead, their approach was to figure out how a Treylor Park would do pizza. TPRG’s R&D included two test kitchens - in Myrtle Beach and in Charleston - to work on their sauce and dough recipes, cheeses, toppings, and condiments.
“We put a lot of effort into that over the last year,” he said, “so we know that what we’re putting out there is a great representation of what our goal was.”
“You don’t just tiptoe into a new concept,” Wilder said.
MUCH MORE ON THIS MENU
Think of it this way: Pizza Party is a Hitch that also serves a full pizza menu. Alex King and Kadie Weed helm a kitchen that will churn out an ample carte filled with familiar Treylor Park Shares, Greens, and conveyor-baked pies.
“You’re still going to have our nachos, our PB&J wings, our avocados, our fried banana peppers,” Wilder promised.
This menu features “a lot of our big staples that people depend on and look forward to,” per Kunzi.
By design, no baked-then warmed-up-now slices are being served. Pizza Party’s answer is a 10” personal pie, $12 for any of the eight Signature concoctions and $10 for the four Classics, a size that is easily enough for two thanks to the substantial toppings.
“For the lunch crowd in this area, it’s a no-brainer,” Kunzi said.
Large pizzas, offered in the same iterations, are 18” ($24 for Signatures and $20 for Classics). Build Your Own Pies start at $18 and $10 for the respective sizes, and gluten-free cauliflower crusts are available up and down the roster.
The fun comes in how TPRG standards have been cleverly incorporated into a pizza parlor’s spread. What is a Shrimp & Grits Taco at the other locations becomes the Shrimp & Grits Signature Pie here, topped with crispy crustaceans, dollops of jalapeño cheddar grits, chili aioli, and chimichurri.
“It’s just a different vessel for it,” Kunzi said.
The Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, my go-to at Treylor Park and Hitch, have been turned into the Miyagi Beef pizza whose toppings include marinated ribeye, cheddar cheese, cauliflower, and caramelized onions. Though it does not come with the beer cheese dipping sauce, do not fear, Daniel-san: the carrot ginger dressing is amazing and turns the recipe into a banh mi on a pizza.
Even the sweet-and-savory Grilled Apple Pie w/ Chicken sandwich has been frankensteined onto a pie crust with cheddar and mozzarella marrying cinnamon-roasted apples and bacon.
The same but different, see?
On the whole, the crust is good not great, essentially a canvas for tastier toppings, a thinner and less bready brother of a Mellow Mushroom dough.
Playing on the same keytar tune, the zeitgeist-monikered Hot Pockets are also calzoney versions of Treylor Park familiars, three of which, though, are Southernized by being made with biscuit dough, producing a flakier crust than a standard stromboli.
If you actually have room for dessert and did not order them as a savory appetizer, order the Sweet Fried Knots, served with peach jam and vanilla icing, or just own it and have another pizza, this one served as a s’more.
Eight years ago, Savannahians suffered from a paucity of quality non-chain pizzas to pick from. Now, we are spoiled for choice, especially in the environs south of Forsyth Park.
Well aware that Big Bon, Hop Atomica, Squirrel’s, and Vittoria are all within a few blocks, Wilder, Kunzi, and Usher knew that their foray into the fire had to offer a different experience.
“It’s the whole gamut,” Kunzi said about what is going to set Pizza Party apart. “It’s the nostalgic idea of what you think of a pizzeria.”
“I grew up with your basic Domino’s pizza and Pizza Hut,” Wilder plainly said with a smile, adding that this is his debut in the world of za. “I’m not from Chicago or New York. I’m from Georgia.”
“Our vibe is very 80s,” he added as Joy Division strummed over the speakers. “Inside, it doesn’t look like a New York or Chicago pizza place.”
The decor is clearly TPRG’s “brand standard,” silver and Honolulu blue abound like the Airstream on the logo. The wallpaper in the restroom hallway is cassette tapes, and Strange Brew was playing on the TVs. Seating capacity is 125, roughly sixty inside at cozy booths and twenty stools surrounding the full bar and sixty more on the covered patio that is equipped for both of Savannah’s ‘seasons’.
Kunzi said, “Where I grew up, we had a neighborhood pizza place that was the central spot for after every football game, Friday night, Saturday night. That’s where you’re getting your to-go pizza, either taking it home or to a party.”
“That was what we talked about,” he continued, “the cohesion, this gathering spot, but also trying to keep it on brand for us.”
Kunzi invoked TPRG’s slogan: Home is Where You Park It.
“When people are here, they just want to feel comfortable,” he said, “[so] have it approachable and have it hit some part of what they’re used to.”
“We always try to focus on the full experience,” Wilder said as his partner agreed with an audible “Mm-hmm.”
It’s like Jack Rabbit Slims timewarped from the 1950s to the 1980s, and as you sit in your booth, Nena’s voice echoes off of the ductwork and you half-expect Marty McFly to skate up and drop off your drinks.
It’s like an old Pizza Hut that got way too hip to be square.
Pizza Party (1201 Habersham St.) is currently open for lunch and dinner weekdays from 11 a.m. to midnight and weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight. Click HERE for more information.