For Steve Troxell, a transplant from Detroit, a pandemic pizza-making hobby has gone public thanks to a series of popular pop-ups called Pizza Club.
A graphic designer by day, Troxell has been perfecting his pies over the past year with much help from willing taste testers, including the bar staff at Moodright’s on Abercorn Street. The first Pizza Club opened in September in adjacent Over Yonder, and it’s been serving Detroit-style pizza every month since, with plans to expand in 2022.
Troxell’s experiments in the kitchen were initially intended to answer the question he had when he moved to Savannah with his girlfriend Leah Van Namen five years ago: Where’s the good pizza? He quickly made friends and fell in love with the food scene, but he hadn’t realized that the rectangular pies of his upbringing were a regional thing, he said.
He often ordered Jet’s Pizza on Abercorn, but with the chain’s closure he was left without a home-made solution. So he turned to his own devices and soon the Pizza Club was born.
Bring the Motor City to the Hostess City
For the uninitiated, Detroit-style pizza is all about the crust, Troxell explained.
“It should be thick but fluffy and crispy on the bottom,” he said. “I compare it to a focaccia – very fluffy.”
The other rules are that it should be a square or rectangle and the cheese should go to the rim like a crust with the sauce on top.
In addition, there are some discussions among connoisseurs. Troxell, for example, scores rather than grazes his sauce, and while the traditional topping is a mix of mozzarella and Wisconsin brick cheese — hard to find south of the Mason-Dixon — he substitutes Monterey Jack, which has a similar melting quality.
He also had to get creative with his pans when professional quality became too expensive for a hobby cook. He found an alternative with a lid for brownies that allows the batter to rise, as opposed to how it’s stretched in traditional cakes before baking.
The result? Troxell has sold out cakes at every pop-up and says he’s even found other Detroit expats who have lent their seal of approval. Pre-orders are running out quickly after the dates were announced via Instagram, and he’s making the double order in person on the day of.
Pizza Club fan Peterson Worrell, who turned on notifications for @pizzaclub_sav To make sure he doesn’t miss out, he said the pies are the perfect addition to Savannah’s food landscape.
“Your pizza is such a welcome change! With so many places around town offering New York-style pizza, it’s nice to have another option,” he said. “And the crust! Definitely made from scratch and the perfect balance of crunchy and buttery without being greasy at all.”
Savannah is gaining ground on the pop-up food scene
Pizza Club joins a plethora of pop-ups bringing a variety of cuisines to town for a limited time only. Some, like Venezuelan street food supplier Troupial, built a following as pop-ups before branching out to brick-and-mortar stores.
Formerly a mobile food truck, Big Bon Bodega now operates the Big Bon Ghost Kitchen, which offers sous chefs the opportunity to showcase culinary talent at special events without having to find a space or worry about expenses.
Pastry chef Natasha Gaskill, whose foodie operations include Husk and the Grey, has also made the switch to pop-ups for 2021 in partnership with Executive Chef Matt Palmerlee. The duo’s one-night summer ice cream residencies at Finche’s sandwiches and dinners with a North African twist, nicknamed Hotel Lugash, have allowed Gaskill to test flavors and combinations without the pressure of building a bigger brand.
For Troxell, pop-ups are a chance to prove his talents in a new industry where his previous experience is limited to his teenage years at Detroit-based pizza chain Buscemi.
With the next Pizza Club coming amid a new home purchase — he and Van Namen are here to stay — Troxell said he intends to go into overdrive with biweekly deals in the new year.