The team behind Wrecktangle, recently named best pizza in the United States by "Good Morning America," is opening a new restaurant next week in St. Paul, in partnership with First Avenue. And we have a pandemic safety video to thank for it.

As First Avenue was reemerging after 2020's pandemic closure, it wanted to make a video for patrons to provide masking and social distancing guidance, and to temper expectations of returning to crowds and live music.

But to show what a large gathering at the famed venue would look like post-COVID, the video needed extras. Enter Jeff Rogers and Breanna Evans, two of the three proprietors of Wrecktangle Pizza, who were happy to make cameos.

They met Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue, at the video shoot. Frank was the one who was starstruck. "Wrecktangle is the only pizza my kids will eat," she said.

At the same time it was resuming live shows, First Avenue was resuming something else: an idea that had formed years earlier, when it took over the lease for St. Paul's Wild Tymes, on the pedestrian mall neighboring the Palace Theatre — a venue that First Avenue co-manages.

The idea was to open a restaurant and lounge, a place for people to drink and dine pre- and post-show, but that could also support live music, have a flexible private space for VIPs and events, and could serve downtown St. Paul as workers and foot traffic returned looking for a bite to eat.

Frank called Wrecktangle.

"They have that live music ethos," Frank explained of her choice. "A little bit of willingness to push the boundaries to go a little bit further, and like a real joie de vivre. A dig-in-and-get-your-hands-dirty. And the tattoos don't hurt."

The new Wrestaurant opens Aug. 30, with a grand opening set for Sept. 9.

Anyone who frequented the old Wild Tymes may not recognize the high-ceilinged, light-filled space that's dominated by a curvaceous wooden bar inset with peacock-colored corrugated metal. A rounded wall with a bold, cartoon-inspired mural by local artist Jose Dominguez greets guests upon entry. These are just some of the many smooth-edged features in a space that was formerly known for its dim lighting, hard lines and rowdy nights. The only thing that remains intact is a vast patio.

For the Wrecktangle team, the new spot is a departure from their Minneapolis ventures, which began as a pizza-only operation at the North Loop Galley at the end of 2019. Since then, they have expanded to the Market at Malcolm Yards and opened a standalone spot at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S., where they broadened the menu.

More than pizza

While the largest part of Wrestaurant's menu is still pizza — the square-cut Detroit-style pizza with the crispy caramelized cheese edges that Wrecktangle has perfected — Rogers' menu diverges in other ways. The pizzas, with all new topping combinations (other than the signature Shredder and the "GMA"-winning Very Nice Breakfast Pizza) are simpler, meant to be executed much more quickly to meet the showtime rush. But they're just as fun as ever.

Fideo Cacio e Pepe is Rogers' take on a mac' and cheese pie. A meatball pie — by far the most requested at the other locations — is topped with little chunks of beef meatloaf. The Hot Take pairs pineapple relish with al pastor bacon.

Appetizers are large-format to be shared among groups, and lean toward re-engineered comfort foods — pizza egg rolls studded with pancetta, Barbie-pink beet-dyed pasta shells stuffed with chèvre, tomato and cream cheese "pâte" for dipping torn focaccia. And a barley and charred broccoli bowl with quail eggs.

"Obviously, we really like pizza and we consume a lot of cheese, meat and bread," Rogers said. "We're trying to make it a little bit lighter and a little more inviting."

Sandwiches reinvent the classics with what Rogers sees as improvements. Take the Sesame Smash Burg.

"My favorite part of a lot of burgers has been the sesame seed bun. And they always fall off, all of the sesame seeds leave the bun," he said. So, he rolls the burger directly into sesame seeds and smashes them on the griddle. He loves Thousand Island on his burgers, too, but hates how the dressing drenches everything. So for this one, he makes a Thousand Island ricotta that's more sturdy.

"It's like a Big Mac, but thought about," Rogers said.

Artichokes get the parm sandwich treatment. Dino chicken nuggets — the frozen kind — get put on a Trung Nam roll with chile corn mayo. (For families walking over from the Children's Museum, little ones can just get the nuggets.)

Bar director Gabriel Campana-Blatti has designed a cocktail menu around a handful of bold flavors, such as hibiscus, mango, black tea, dill and olive oil, which appear in classics like an Old Fashioned and daiquiris.

The restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Slices of select pies will be offered from a window on the corner — up to an hour after the kitchen closes.

And that's just for now. Expect more changes to the menu, and additional grab-and-go items, as Wrestaurant evolves.

Departing from the Wrecktangle name has given the team freedom to move beyond the signature items that their loyal customers demand, they said.

"That's kind of the point of calling it Wrestaurant," Evans said. "Having the flexibility to do whatever ... we want. You get into it because you love it, and then the business kicks in. Pizza's great, obviously. But we just want to be creative."

Wrestaurant at the Palace, 33 W. 7th Place, St. Paul,