We knew when we saw the menu that Lane Parke’s newest restaurant wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill Subway-style pizza place. Because there was Burrata Caprese, or Burrata with Melon & Prosciutto. And there’s a Purple Kale & Ricotta salad, or a Walnut & Gorgonzola one. And gelato! And that’s not even getting to their pizzas. They are looking to open in late July or early August. To tide us over until then, we got a sneak peek at what’s in store from Lane Carrick, the man who decided the Los Angeles concept needed an Alabama location.
What sold you on the MidiCi concept?
I wasn’t in the pizza business, and I wasn’t in the restaurant business. I walked into MidiCi in Los Angeles, and said, “This is better pizza than I have had anywhere else, and it’s a unique space.” In the pizza industry, with $20 billion in delivery take out and $20 in dine-in, dine-in was going through a transformation, being Chipotle-ized to source the best possible ingredients and make it to order. At MidiCi it was like fine dining marries Starbucks with an energetic vibe, and it made an outstanding product. “MidiCi” is an Italian phrase that means “talk to me.” The original unit in Los Angeles is a very social space, so the name communicates that. I came back and said I wanted to bring it to the South.
Why did you pick this location?
Our investment group has territory in Birmingham, part of Atlanta, Huntsville, Memphis, and Jackson, Mississippi, and this is our first location. I spent six months going around the South looking for the right demographic, and I found Lane Parke and thought it felt right. I like the energy in the Birmingham market. It was the best space and the best market we found. I felt like it was an interesting opportunity to take this West Coast concept and plug it in here.
What will the dining experience be like?
When you walk in, you will see an open display kitchen with two 10,000-pound wood-fire ovens from Naples that also act as functional art. All the preparation takes place in front of the patrons. All we have in our freezer is gelato. The pecorino, parmiginao-reggiano, prosciutto, and more are all sourced from the finest purveyors in Italy. We will be the second restaurant in the system to open with a full table service. We will have a live olive tree inside, and between that and the ovens and the aroma, there won’t be anything else like it in the market.
Can you talk more about the pizza itself?
You have to be certified to technically use the name Neapolitan, and it means you are following the original recipes with double refined flours and the right yeast. You have to let your dough rise for 24 hours, which makes for a better product. The Margherita with Buffalo mozzarella from Italy is the most popular thing on the menu across the 36 stores, and has a price point around $9. If you haven’t had a Neapolitan pizza coming out of a 1,000-degree oven, I’d start there with a Margherita. The Devil’s is very spicy with spicy sausage, spicy Italian salami and red chilies, and the most popular pizza after the Margherita. I like the Breakfast Pizza because I love bacon and eggs.
What else is on the menu?
We will carry more salads than the Los Angeles restaurant. We will have soups and calzones, and we are adding pasta and chicken dishes to the menu, and a kids’ menu. I think the meat and cheese plate that includes pecorino and parmiginao-reggiano—we get it in a 100-pound block from the Parmesan region—is also exceptional paired with a glass of wine. We have a full bar with beer, wine and liquor. We recognize this market wants not a $4 glass of wine but a nice glass of wine, and we’ll have local beers. We will also have late night happy hours from 9 p.m. until close, and the kitchen will be open as well.