When Pig Ate My Pizza, the Travail Collective's popular pizzeria in Robbinsdale, closed for renovations earlier this month and returned with a truncated menu — just six pizza options, and a beloved appetizer gone — fans began to suspect something was up.
On Wednesday, it became official.
Pig Ate My Pizza (4124 W. Broadway Av., Robbinsdale) is closing at the end of the year. At midnight on Jan. 1, it will become Nouvelle Brewing by Travail, a brewpub with many of Pig's bombastic bones — but none of the pizza.
"We want to do new things," said co-owner Mike Brown. "It's really hard for us because we've had Pig Ate My Pizza, the brand, for so long and so much effort went into what it is. It's nine years of business and it's a pretty intense change, saying goodbye. But we knew it was right for everybody working here."
Pizza will make "guest appearances" at Nouvelle Brewing, Brown said. But pizza wasn't sustainable as a focus anymore, because a twisted supply chain has made consistency and reliability next to impossible, he explained.
"The market is crazy, like, you can get something one week and you can't get it the next week. In the pizza world, drastic change like that is not good for business."
Instead, Nouvelle Brewing will rely on the creativity of its chefs to craft changing menus based on what's available to them.
The team, all longtime Travailians, includes head brewer Andy Goettsch, formerly Travail's chef de cuisine; chefs Nat Moser and Ben Feltmann overseeing the kitchen, with a new menu that emphasizes chef-guest interaction; and executive pastry chef Alexandra Althoff.
For customers who have followed Travail's trajectory — from the "1.0" beginnings, to its expansion into the space that became Pig Ate My Pizza and finally into its current deluxe digs across the street — the new concept might not seem new at all. It harks back to Travail's roots, when the cooks did the serving and the clearing and the conversation, too.
While Nouvelle Brewing will be counter service, every other step will involve face-to-face interaction. "We tried the QR code situation and we didn't like the vibe. We didn't like how it disconnected us from the people," Brown said.
The food will bring the chefs out to the dining room, with the kind of tableside service Travail has built into its brand. The changes have already begun. Even with the few pizzas still on the menu, the cooks are coming out and shaving the Parmesan cheese. They're ladling butter over a sizzling 16-ounce rib-eyes. They're pouring the broth into a cast-iron pot of seafood.
Notably not on the new menu are the pork nuggs, arguably Pig's most popular appetizer. But a pork cutlet "a la nugg" that serves two has taken its place for now.
The space has changed, too, with high brewery-style tables (with built-in "pitcher pong" games), a diner bar facing the kitchen, and foosball, pinball and shuffleboard.
Whatever isn't carrying over into the new concept will be raffled off on New Year's Eve at a grand send-off to Pig Ate My Pizza, an event with the pizzeria's committed fans in mind. Even the restaurant's sign will be up for grabs.
"We're all really excited about this, and if you're a Pig Ate My Pizza fan, you're gonna dig what we do here," Brown said.
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