Sam Rodriguez opened At's-A-Pizza in early April on Union in the former Petra site. The restaurant is loosely based on the former Collierville restaurant with the same name.
The Midtown restaurant offers New York-style pizza by the slice or in 10-, 14-, or 18-inch versions. Customers can create their own pizza or choose between 14 options such as the Great White (featuring Alfredo sauce and spinach), but At's-A-Pizza is hardly pizza-centric.
It's more of a sit-down Italian restaurant offering table service and an extensive menu of appetizers, salads, panini, pastas, and subs. (One recent patron stood to walk toward the counter for his drink and looked surprised as a waitress intercepted him with a smile.)
"It's something different, right?" Rodriguez says of the service. "People like it. That surprises them. It's like, 'Oh, it's not just pizza only. We can eat some good dishes here.'"
Rodriguez, who has worked in the food industry as a cook for 21 years and at one time lived in Manhattan, is proud of the pasta primavera ($11.95): linguini with green peppers, Greek olives, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and capers baked in marinara sauce. He cooks the made-from-scratch sauce for four hours.
The calzones and stromboli also are customizable with the former featuring ricotta in addition to mozzarella. The Italian Special ($8.50) stretches across a substantial silver platter and would be disastrous without a knife and fork. Each bite contains a different flavor with pockets of soft ricotta, globs of pepperoni and Italian sausage, and a heavy dose of vegetables.
Customization and selection are central tenets of the At's-A-Pizza menu. Rodriguez sprinkles a "pixie dust" of Parmesan, oregano, and garlic on top of his pizza but has an alternative for those averse to garlic.
"I want you to feel comfortable. I want you to be my regular customer," says Rodriguez, who addresses everyone with a "Mr." or "Mrs." before their first name. "Enjoy. Sit down like you're in a home."
The name of At's-A-Pizza comes from New York slang, "'ey, it's a pizza!"
Beeker's, a new Midtown carry-out and delivery restaurant, is a reincarnated version of Tucker's.
The mad-scientist monker fits, not just due to the scientific-apparatus art and themed food items spliced into the menu. It goes beyond the large painting of the periodic table inside an abstract Memphis skyline that greets customers, courtesy of Meredith Wilson of Allie Cat Arts.
Ask Charles Fisher, a former Tucker's employee and the Beeker's owner, about the menu, and he'll launch into a 45-minute monologue that covers nearly every menu item, the popularity of offering half-gallon tea instead of gallon tea (did you know that's more than five 12-ounce cups?), the importance of Yelp reviews, and each line of the health inspection hanging from the wall.
Bearded, wearing a golf shirt with holes in it, and frantically clicking around his iPad to find various talking points, Fisher could easily be pictured in a lab coat jotting down the result of chemical experiments into a notebook.
The experimenting extends to Beeker's Big Bunsen burgers, which are ground and hand-formed daily, homemade cheesecakes, and wing sauces like Jekyll and Hyde and Bad Experiment, the latter created and perfected by one of Fisher's cooks.
Philly Style Protein Prototypes, combining rib-eye with Cheez Whiz ($9.99 for a 12-inch sandwich), and a large collection of hand-cut steaks are also menu staples. The menu lists a PBJ for $997.23, inspiring more than a few curious inquiries (it's not an actual item), and states the restaurant is "closed Mondays and when Billy Joel is in town."
Good food is a start, but for a business operating at about 90 percent delivery, customer service is paramount, and Fisher knows it.
Beeker's is closed on Mondays, but the phone still rings often. A woman recently showed up with her daughter, who brought home a good report card and wanted some wings as a reward. Fisher delayed a trip to the store to fire up the fryer. He also made a salad for a hungry police officer looking for food at 11 p.m. on another Monday.
"If I do whatever it takes to get them to eat here once, I think I can get them hooked most of the time," Fisher says.
Fisher has kept some of the same staff and menu items from Tucker's but has made changes.
"Some people think we're the same business. Why would we go through the trouble of closing down during the busiest time of the year to remodel the store and cut the menu in half? Why would you do that?" Fisher says. "It needed to be redone."