Pizza Nea, which has operated on East Hennepin Av. in Minneapolis for 17 years, will serve its last Neapolitan style pizza on Saturday. Owner Mike Sherwood announced the closing in a Tweet on Wednesday.

"I don't want to blame anybody or anything," Sherwood said. "There's a lot of competition out there. There are just a lot of restaurants now."

When he moved to the Twin Cities in 1985, the restaurant scene was "a desert" Sherwood said.  In 1995, he opened St. Paul Bagelry, which operated as a bagel shop by day and a pizza shop -- Pizza Napoletana -- by night. In 2002, he took his pizza craft to a storefront on East Hennepin, opening Pizza Nea. The next year, he sold St. Paul Bagelry (which still operates in the same location in Roseville today). 

Since he opened Pizza Nea (306 E Hennepin Av., Minneapolis), the Twin Cities has seen a veritable restaurant boom. Just a block from his shop, Punch Pizza, which also specializes in authentic Neapolitan pizza, opened a location in 2006. In nearby Northeast, Young Joni, the award-winning restaurant that also serves wood-fired pizza opened in 2016.

"Ann [Kim] is a genius," said Sherwood. "That's the future."

To the claims that he's closing Pizza Nea because the new minimum wage law has forced his hand, Sherwood said: "That's ridiculous."

"It had absolutely nothing to do with that," he said. "I've always paid my people more than minimum wage. It was just time. It's been a blast and I'm going to miss it."

His plans after Saturday evening's final dinner service are still tentative. Sherwood said he'd like to work in a school and continue to help his partner with their small organic farm in Marine on St. Croix.

"I love it," he said of the small town north of Stillwater. "I love the city and I never thought I'd be a country boy, but it's beautiful here."

Perhaps that organic farm could become a pizza farm? A city-dweller can dream.