Modern, buzzing pizzeria Renzo opened its doors last week. Pizza seems to be the new thing in Charleston, and who’s complaining? Eater had the chance to speak with chef Evan Gaudreau about pies, produce, and the vibe curated by co-owners Erik Hutson and Nayda Friere at this new North Central eatery.
Take a Trip to Manhattan’s East Village
Patrons will be surprised to find Renzo hidden among houses on Huger Street in North Central. The ambiance and décor mirror that of a hip New York City restaurant — a gold-rimmed bar stacked with wine bottles sits to the left, with wide booths on the right. The space is small but not cramped, and Gaudreau’s culinary team can be seen in the bright open kitchen whipping up pies in the wood fired oven. Gaudreau explained that Friere and Hutson wanted Renzo to “feel like a party” and an escape from everyday life. Hutson built the entire space himself, and Friere developed a thoughtful wine list, and she is happy to explain it thoroughly to diners, which adds to the party atmosphere.
Neo-Neapolitan and Detroit-Style
Gaudreau’s Neo-Neapolitan is a riff on the classic — it’s similar in style but not quite traditional, and it arrives sliced in four. The main difference is his substitution of yeast for a savory natural levain, which leads to a fermentation of the dough — the entire process takes about 60 hours. A traditional Neapolitan has no aroma of yeast, where as Gaudreau’s dough has a strong scent that he feels adds umami to the pie.
For the Detroit-style pizza, which is currently only offered at happy hour, Renzo consulted with Butcher & Bee baker Henry Jones. The airy, focaccia-like dough is reminiscent of a pan de cristal and is parbaked in a buttered cast iron pan before being crushed with cheese and baked again. Sauce is then added to protect the cheesy crust, and the pie is cut into square slices.
Gaudreau’s pie toppings often come from memories or past experiences. The Wrath of Kahan pie is an ode to a chorizo-stuffed date dish by Chicago chef Paul Kahan, and the yogurt-topped lamb pizza is a remake of one he had on a trip to Tel Aviv. Nutritional yeast serves as another inventive, and vegan, topping add-on. Gaudreau cooks yeast with starch before dehydrating it, forming what he describes as “umami powder” that tastes similar to parmesan cheese.
Anchovies and Grapefruit?
Gaudreau tempts the palates of daring diners with his small plate and starter options, which are made for sharing. Boquerones, mild, white European anchovies, are served with grapefruit, while the Sunburst trout conserva comes with crème fraiche and thin wafer-like crackers. Gaudreau is a big proponent of local produce and likes to get a lot of his ingredients for this offering from Spade & Clover on Johns Island.
Don’t Skip Dessert
Gaudreau wanted the dessert program to be fun and unpretentious and has always liked making ice cream. He offers up exciting flavors like roasted strawberry and pistachio that come topped with options like rainbow sprinkles or a Nutella magic shell. The Fernet flavor is made with two bottles of Fernet, and the featured guava pastelito sundae uses a hand spun ricotta ice cream.
Renzo is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and has happy hour from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., where it serves up the Detroit-style pie by the slice, selected small plates, and a mystery wine selected by the staff.