It’s all bricks and mortar for beloved mobile pizza oven, and Aziza’s says a fond farewell.
DISCLAIMER: Pizza Tonight is a client of my business, and Victoria DeRoche is my friend. In fact, she hired me as Pizza Tonight’s first paid employee in 2011 and introduced me to my husband at a backyard pizza party! I think very highly of her and her business, and you should know that my bias is all over this article and that I stand by it 100%.
The Gibrall family, owners of the Shockoe Bottom favorite Aziza’s on Main, announced today that they will close their restaurant for good at the end of this month. Though the door is shutting on eight years of great food and warm service, accolades in every local media outlet, and countless diehard fans; it’s opening to new opportunities: Over the next few months, the former Aziza’s space will transform to become the new home of Pizza Tonight, the heretofore-mobile-only, wood-fired pizza operation, known for local catering and vending at places like Hardywood, Ardent Craft Ales, and wherever the usual throng of food trucks can be found.
Aziza’s on Main co-owner Stephanie Gibrall Brooks said in a statement to the press, “Mary Gibrall (Aziza) prided herself in her family owned and operated businesses. We have come to a point in our journey where that may no longer be a realistic option, and keeping with her example and tradition is very important to us. We have really enjoyed serving the community for the last almost eight years and count ourselves blessed to have met so many wonderful and loyal customers, who quickly became our friends.”
Aziza’s wasn’t just a Shockoe favorite; it was a Richmond favorite, earning Style Weekly’s Best Restaurant in 2013 with chef Philip Denny at the helm. During his tour at Aziza’s, Caleb Shriver won the Elby Award for Up and Coming Chef, an award current chef Kyle Cox was also nominated for two years ago.
Pizza Tonight owner Victoria DeRoche has been thinking about a brick and mortar location for some time, but when broker Nathan Hughes of Bandazian & Hughes brought the Aziza’s spot to her attention, DeRoche said she knew it was time to act: “After starting our business in 2010 and becoming part of the dynamic RVA dining community by offering mobile wood-fired catering, we are thrilled to take this next step and have a brick and mortar home for Pizza Tonight. I feel that Shockoe Valley will offer an amazing opportunity for us to serve the community and continue to do what we love best.”
DeRoche is working with architect John Meara to renovate the space to double seating and extend the bar, from which they’ll serve wine, beer, and a few craft cocktails. There are also plans to pay homage to the beloved Aziza’s cream puff with Pizza Tonight’s own take on the signature dessert.
Of course, there will be pizza, including favorites like the Fig & Pig and the RVA Pepperoni, plus standards like the Pizza Margherita and seasonal specials like their recent Ramp Pizza, which was a big hit at Hardywood’s Thursday food truck court.
DeRoche will be working with long time Pizza Tonight employee and head cook, Evan Carpin, to develop a menu of small plates. Carpin says, “I’ve been passionate about the idea of opening a static location for a while, and I’m glad the plans have come to fruition. Our rotating menu will feature a variety of Mediterranean inspired appetizers and small plates focused on wood-fire preparation.”
Once Carpin and crew get their flow down in the new space, they’ll open for lunch, offering sandwiches, pizza, and grab-and-go items. On the weekends, they plan to serve up brunch pizzas like the Build-Your-Own-Breakfast (BYOB), which DeRoche describes as, “an egg and cheddar based pizza where you can pile great local ingredients like Sausage Craft’s Sage Sausage, garlic-sautéed oyster mushrooms, or other seasonal items.” If you remember Pizza Tonight from the farmers market, you may recall the Pizza Carbonara or the bacon, apple, and maple pizza known as the BAM. Those’ll be making a comeback as well. You can also expect to see wood-fired waffles with fried chicken butter and maple syrup and, yes, brunch cocktails and a Bloody Mary bar.
Aziza’s last day of service will be Saturday, May 30th; and Brooks says they’d love it if you’d come for a visit between now and then, at which point I urge you to stock up on all the Aziza’s chicken salad, kibbeh, and cream puffs you can fit in your refrigerator, you know, for old time’s sake. Brooks adds, “We want to thank everyone who has been a part of the Aziza’s Family throughout the years and and our very supportive and loyal customers. We will miss you all.”
Photo by: viZZZual.com