Six years ago, the eat-local movement known as locavore was in its infancy, ingredient-driven kitchens were sparse and operated in near anonymity.
Six years ago, The Wedge Pizzeria, 4601 N Western, opened with the intention of celebrating artisan-style crust topped with local and/or organic ingredients in a market not noted for embracing pizza that didn't come in all-you-can-eat.
Six years later, the eat-local rallying cry resounds from sea to shining sea, The Wedge Pizzeria has added a location at 230 NE 1 St., and the restaurant is generally considered a standard-bearer for quality pizza in Oklahoma City.
The focus has always been and still is rustic Italian, general manager Elena Farrar said. The centerpiece of the kitchen is a brick oven that continues to stand as the primary cooking source for the entire menu. The menu is simple: five appetizers, five salads, six specialty pizzas, gelato for dessert, a great beer and wine list and cool specials always on the horizon.
The Antipasto platter is a popular choice, but I love the Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears. I would order the Handmade Meatball more often, but that would probably cost me at least one slice of pizza, which I just can't afford to miss.
The pizza I choose first is the Prosciutto E Formaggi (prosciutto, fig, arugula, mozzarella and Parmesan), followed closely by the Truffle Shuffle (sage, crimini mushrooms, spinach, roasted and hand-pulled chicken, Parmesan and mozzarella with a splash of truffle oil).
In the last year, they've added take-away breakfast at the Western Avenue location. Jeff Longstreth, who's been with The Wedge since day one, oversees the Monday through Friday service.
“We wanted to offer something quick, inexpensive and healthy people could pick and take with them for breakfast.”
The result is a service starting at 7 a.m. offering various breakfast burritos with and without meat, fresh-squeezed juice, Elemental coffee and, lately, gourmet toasts.
When it comes to ordering pizza, I do have my preferences but I also trust Elena and Jeff. On my last visit, Jeff recommended a special he'd come up with that included bacon, red onions and the aforementioned roasted chicken and the result was a home run. If they say it's good, it is. They've spent the last six years in a deep and committed relationship with the brick-oven pizza and all the lucky ingredients that have marched in and out of it.
The Wedge isn't the kind of place to sit down and spread out your preconceived notions about pizza. The Wedge is a place to try new combinations, embrace local flavor and submit to the wisdom of its gatekeepers. But neither Elena, Jeff nor any of the rest of the staff is going to turn their nose up at serving a pepperoni pizza. The atmosphere is light and breezy with a 100 percent chance of hospitality.
This is neighborhood dining at its best, whether at Deep Deuce or on Western. The soul of the operation is Elena, who is general manager of both locations. Under her direction, the original 1,000-square foot space with 35 seats has added both a covered and uncovered patio, play area for kids and herb garden, powered by their own compost.
When The Wedge was conceived, Ryan Parrott was still top stove-tender for the Deep Fork Restaurant Group, which, besides the Deep Fork concept, included The Mantle Wine Bar and Bistro, Cafe Nova, Charlie Newton's, Chicas, North Fork, Deep Fork Grill, Red Moon Cafe and the Sidecar Bar & Grille.
A visit to Phoenix's renowned Pizzeria Bianco sealed the deal for the original creators, which included Farrar, Parrott and Deep Fork managing partner Wade Starr.
“We were blown away,” Starr said. “It was amazing.”
Farrar agreed: “We were inspired by the simplicity, and the commitment to quality ingredients.”
In launching The Wedge, they even copied Bianco's no to-go order policy, but eventually backed out of that because demand dictated it.
“We had people who would come in and order something small plus whole pizzas, which they would just have boxed up.”
Much has changed with Deep Fork since The Wedge's opening. Parrott moved on to reboot The Iguana Mexican Grille and now hangs his tongs at Local in Norman. Chicas, North Fork, Red Moon, Charlie Newton's and Sidecar are gone while Cafe Nova has incurred a spate of bad luck involving original partner and ex-reality TV man-of-the-moment John Paul Merritt and a more recent scandal involving District Attorney David Prater that led to a state grand jury indictment of Starr.
“It's been a tough year for me,” Starr said. “It's been very humbling.”
Starr made it clear he's learned from the experience, and will rebound and grow from it. He also said Deep Fork has no shortage of new ideas on the horizon.
Neither kitchen changes nor legal embattlement has affected the success of The Wedge. The proof is in the growth of artisan pizza offerings since the restaurant opened. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say, after taking a bite of pizza elsewhere, “it's good — but not as good as The Wedge” I could pay for a lifetime supply of Prosciutto E Formaggi.
The Wedge also offers Sunday brunch, which includes breakfast pizzas.
For more information, call 602-3477 or 270-0660.