International pizza consultant Anthony Falco, who made a name for himself at Roberta’s in New York, is in town to team up with Uptown Social executive chef Jonathan Kaldas and help the eatery roll out his “bar pie” concept. Eater had the chance to speak with Falco and sample some pizzas prior to Uptown Social’s opening.
Following his departure in 2016 from the acclaimed Roberta’s in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Falco wasn’t sure where food would take him. Fast-forward a year and a half, and Falco finds himself doing pizza consultations all over the world — from Toronto to Brazil to Kuwait. One of his first collaborations was with Keith Benjamin, Jonathan Arzt, and Kara Graves of Uptown Social, Charleston’s newest sports bar which is set to officially open this week.
Falco made it his mission to make the best New Jersey bar pie possible — one reminiscent but different from Benjamin’s favorite shop, Star Tavern, which he frequented as a kid. The group tested out numerous pizzas in the deck oven in Falco’s apartment and found that high extra virgin olive oil content and a strong flour (they use King Arthur) formed the crunchy bite they were after. This combination along with high heat and a natural levain starter form what Falco calls “the crumb” between the base of the dough and the cheese, allowing the pizza to stay crisp when toppings are added.
Some people bring their pets or children on planes — not Anthony Falco. The chef brought his sourdough starter with him on his flight down to Charleston to ensure the bar pie was up to snuff at Uptown Social. This fits in with the goal behind the menu — an intense focus on quality, American ingredients. The toppings for the pizzas are a collaboration between Falco and Kaldas, and the two even went out shrimping with the Tarvin Family on Shem Creek to search for inspiration. They found the Lowcountry shrimps to be so fresh that they required almost no seasoning — they are combined with garlic chips, chilis, and a cream sauce on The Orchard pie.
The two chefs developed a topping menu full of authentic components, but the one constant is that all the pies are simple and approachable. Falco explained that he wanted to avoid “the dart-board pizza” he often finds that piles random items onto dough making it impossible to identify one flavor. Kaldas also mentioned that many of the vegetables found on the Uptown pizzas, like those on the Armitage green pizza, will mirror the seasons.
The establishment is called Uptown Social, so Kaldas developed the rest of his offering with more dishes fit for the masses. His jumbo wings are brined in ginger, smoked, and then fried, which he mentioned helps them to stay juicy. Kaldas also found other ways to utilize Falco’s dough — it serves as “chips” alongside his Egyptian hummus recipe and is the star of the pizza dough bite appetizer. Also find six varieties of sliders, and if that’s not enough, round out the meal with the indulgent Guinness donuts.
If this past weekend’s soft opening is any indication, Uptown Social looks to be the new Upper King street hot spot for 20-somethings in Charleston. The restaurant will open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., and will serve food until 1:30 a.m. A brunch service featuring a house-made sausage and gravy pizza will be offered Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.