A new pizza restaurant is opening in an unlikely location – inside an old car wash in the Gamlebyen neighborhood of Oslo, next to Fuglen Coffee Roasters. The owners of Brutus have teamed up with pizzaiolo Aleksander Johansen (formerly of Jungel Pizza) – Johansen will be the head chef and Fredrik Husa (formerly of Brutus/Gurken Gurken Gurken Gurken) will be the restaurant manager. ZZ Pizza will serve seasonal pizzas and pitchers of beer, natural wine, and cider from Mold (which will be produced in the same venue). We chatted with Johansen and Husa to get all of the details about their new venture – keep reading to get the scoop! Update: ZZ Pizza will open on July 16th, 2021. Booking: [email protected].
Disclaimer: Fredrik Husa is the brother of Anders Husa.
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From Lockdown Pop-Up to Permanent Restaurant
The pizza cider love story between Fredrik Husa and Aleksander Johansen started in the summer of 2020, when Norway’s borders were closed to tourists. Oslo chefs got creative, and used their spare time in lockdown to work together and share ideas. When Johansen came by Brutus with some Jungel Pizza for the team, Husa instantly fell in love with his pizza. Similarly, Johansen fell in love with Husa’s spontaneously fermented cider. The two kicked it off instantly – Husa showed Johansen behind the scenes of the cider production for Mold, and in return Johansen hosted a pizza pop-up for a few weeks inside Brutus’ (now-closed) cocktail bar, Gurken Gurken Gurken Gurken. The pop-up was successful, and the guys had such a blast working together that it sparked the idea to open a joint venture in the future. “We instantly knew we wanted to do something long-term,” Husa told us.
Less than a year later, that dream is becoming a reality. ZZ (pronounced “Zet Zet”) Pizza is opening this spring, inside a former car wash in Gamlebyen. The industrial garage setup offers more than a cool vibe, it’s functional for the production of Mold (their natural cider), which will also take place in the restaurant venue. Besides Husa and Johansen, the other co-owners are Jens Føien, Hans Petter Hval, Mathias Lyngholm Dardeau, and Arnar Jakob Gudmundsson – all from Brutus.
Gamlebyen – Up-And-Coming Oslo Neighborhood
We’ve seen a burger joint inside a gas station, but a pizzeria inside an old car wash? That must be a first! That’s right, ZZ Pizza is taking over an old car wash (Lodalen Bilpleie), and even though they have torn out the inside, the restaurant will still have some of the same industrial vibes as the original occupant. There are rolling glass garage doors at the entrance and hoses hanging on the wall – but these hoses are not for car washing, they’re related to the cider production. During the day, the Mold team will use the space to make cider, and then they’ll hose everything down and pack it all away to open the pizzeria at night. But guests will be reminded that they’re dining inside a fermentation station by the bubbling sounds of the cider in the vats and the smell of yeast in the air. (It’s alive!) The decor will be pretty minimalistic as it’s not a huge space; everything is happening in the same room, so functionality is sure to win out in the design. There’s talk of a neon sign on the exterior, and in the summer they will have 60 square meters of outdoor seating as well.
Aside from Fuglen Coffee Roasters, not much has opened in Gamlebyen – until now. When the Oslo city center organically expanded into the newly developed Oslobukta area, people started moving their businesses into this part of town. Now, there’s an indie record label and a yoga studio, but for the most part it’s still relatively untouched. “There’s a lot of people living in this neighborhood. We live in the neighborhood ourselves, and that’s one of the reasons we were attracted to the area,” Johansen said. “We see its potential and want to help define this part of the city.” Urban Oslo meets the old part of the city in Gamlebyen – the neighborhood is up and coming, with a lot of charm and character that sets it apart from the other neighborhoods that have become a bit overrun with chains. “There’s a lot of different people who live here, young and old, with and without children. We want to create a place that will not exclude anyone,” Husa added.
Johansen’s Signature Style of Pizza
Johansen has been passionate about bread since he was little – he grew up baking bread with his grandma in the Lofoten Islands. He has a background in the music industry, but got sucked into the baking world when his friend started making pizza at Peloton. Johansen eventually took over the kitchen. “Baking felt very natural to me – I love being creative and working with my hands,” Johansen said. He began playing around with different recipes and testing techniques to develop his signature dough. When he got the opportunity to start Jungel Pizza (a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint) a couple years ago, he jumped at the chance to hone his recipe.
Jungel Pizza is mainly a take-away joint, so the dough was developed to hold up during transportation. At ZZ, the style of pizza will build off of this foundation, but will have a slightly different approach adapted for dine-in customers. Now, Johansen will be able to serve toppings that he couldn’t previously use because they wouldn’t travel well on steaming hot pizza.
For his signature pizza, Johansen mixes a sourdough wild yeast culture with a fresh yeast culture. While this might sound sacrilegious to the strict Neapolitan pizza aficionados, it was a style he was curious about experimenting with and developed on his own. This technique gives the dough a unique twist, setting it apart from other kinds of pizza. “It has a baguette-like crunch on the outside, but great structure on the inside – and it’s purposely burnt a little on the crust to give it a nice, charred taste,” Johansen described.
The dough rises for approximately five to six days, and is made from a mixture of high-quality Italian and Canadian flour. “You can’t just have a recipe and do the same thing every day, you need to use your hands and feel it, you need to adapt daily and be attentive to it,” Johansen explained. This hands-on repetition is what has helped him slowly understand what he’s doing. “Making pizza is like delivering a moment to a guest. I make hundreds of moments every day. I make something beautiful for myself and for others, and it’s different every time. I have to feel it.”
“I think it’s the best pizza dough out there,” Husa said emphatically. “I noticed at the pop-up this summer that every guest ate all their crusts. There was no crust left behind! The dough is so good you want to eat every bite.”
On The Menu at ZZ Pizza
There’s something for everyone on the menu at ZZ Pizza. “If you want to drop in and have a pizza and a beer, you can. If you want to come talk to us about fermentation and cider, you’re welcome.” Johansen said with a smile. “Bring your kids and come in shorts if you want – ZZ is not pretentious, it’s a relaxed place for everyone,” Husa added.
In general, the pizza menu will follow the seasons, using the best quality ingredients from small Norwegian cheese producers and local farmers. But, of course, they’ll also serve the classics. 70% of the menu will be simple pizzas like Margherita or pepperoni, while 30% of the menu will be more creative specials. ZZ Pizza is making their own anchovies with fish from the Oslo fjords, cod roe bottarga with Lofoten skrei fish, and vegan cheese from fermented nut milk. Currently, they’re picking wild ramson and herbs to go on top of upcoming spring specials. “This is not New Nordic pizza!” Husa pointed out. “We’re picking herbs because we like to – because we like going out in nature and hiking and having fun.” First and foremost they want the flavors to be accessible; they want to be your next-door pizzeria.
Dessert pizzas will also be available for those with a sweet tooth, with toppings like gorgonzola caramel and toasted nuts, chocolate, ice cream, and nougat. ZZ will be open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays serving sandwiches on rolls made with the pizza dough. Husa hinted at an impending Baconator sandwich – yes, please!
A New Production Venue for Mold Sider
If you’ve missed the slushies from Gurken, we have some good news for you! The old slush machine from Gurken will be moving to ZZ, so you can still get your piña colada fix. Coffee will be available from their next-door neighbor, Fuglen. You can buy bottles of wine, but mostly they’ll serve pitchers of wine, cider, and beer. Of course, the cider from Mold will be a major highlight of the drink menu. “I think it’s a really special thing that you can meet the cider maker at the restaurant. Where else can you find that?” Johansen pointed out. “You can learn about it while drinking it, from the maker himself – that’s rare.”
Mold began producing cider four years ago, and last year they made 8,000 liters. To craft their cider, they follow the same style as the natural winemakers that inspire them, only they use fruit instead of grapes (since there are no quality grapes to be found in Norway). “Cider culture is slowly growing – we want to help create that culture and define how it should be,” Husa explained. “Lots of people think of ciders as being sweet, but we make ours more like a fruit pét nat, with nothing added, no sulfites, no sugar. All of the fruit is macerated and spontaneously fermented, and we bottle when the sugar level is at the right level to get the natural bubbles we want.”
And they only use what they find in Oslo. “So far we’ve tried apples, cherries, plums, pears, and quince. We want the fruit to speak for itself – we don’t want to sugar coat it,” Husa said when explaining their philosophy. Previously, they rented space for their cider production, but now they will do everything inside the ZZ venue. The production will take place between July and November, and the bottling will begin around November/December. For now, they don’t have space to grow beyond the 8,000 liters they made last year, but they’re just excited to have their own place and have more opportunity to experiment. “Both Aleksander and I work with yeast for a living, so it’s not lost on us that we could play with the natural yeasts from the cider and see what happens when you mix it with gluten and use it with a pizza. We have lots of room to play,” Husa said.
“Another plus is that the cider business helps outweigh the risk of having a restaurant – we have two sources of income instead of one,” Johansen pointed out. Mold will supply kegs of the cider for the restaurant and will sell bottles of the cider at Vinmonopolet.The finished product (2019 vintage).
A Project to Look Forward To
Husa and Johansen hope to open the doors to ZZ Pizza on May 1st, construction allowing. Even if the current lockdown restrictions are still in place, they will open and start serving take-away pizza. “As soon as we can put pizza in the oven we’ll start selling it!” Johansen laughed. When we asked them what it’s like to open a new restaurant during a pandemic, they told us this project has been what has motivated them through the winter, giving them something to look forward to.
If you love the fun, relaxed vibe at Brutus, you can expect a similar energy at ZZ Pizza. “The Brutus spirit will be there, but it will be a completely new restaurant,” Husa commented. But there’s lots of possibility for overlap between the two restaurants – ZZ might even make bread for Brutus in the future. “It could be a natural next step,” Johansen agreed. “Everything has been developing so naturally, it seems like this project was meant to be. We’re not sure how it will end up, but we’re enjoying the process.” Husa added, “A job that is fun and challenging makes for a good day of work.”
“We love talking and interacting with guests,” Johansen said. “And all of the owners have a different personality and a different knowledge that they’re bringing to the table,” Husa added. “We’ll bring good vibes, play loud music, and we won’t wear uniforms. We take what we do seriously, but we love to have fun – it’s this solid foundation that gives us the ability to play around.”
Are you looking forward to the opening of ZZ Pizza? Let us know in a comment below.
Feature image: Magnus Nordstrand.