To finish the year, BBJToday.com is featuring its top 10 most-viewed articles from 2015.
This article was originally published on Aug. 20, 2015.
By Oliver Lazenby
The Bellingham Business Journal
Chicago-style deep dish pizza, thin cracker-crust pizza, pizza on flatbread priced by weight, pizza from a food truck—these are just a few of the ways Bellingham restaurants interpret the Italian creation.
Matt Brawner is betting there’s space for yet another style of pizza in Bellingham. He opened ÖVN Wood Fired Pizza in Fairhaven, within blocks of two two other pizza places, on Wednesday, Aug. 18 in the South Bay Suites building at 1148 10th St.
ÖVN (it’s pronounced like “oven,” the umlaut is strictly for style, Brawner said) serves a traditional neapolitan-inspired pizza, an approach developed in Naples, Italy.
Neapolitan-style pizza is simple, Brawner said, with a basic crust and mozzarella cheese. He cooks his pizzas for about two minutes in a 900 degree, applewood-fired oven—a few hundred degrees hotter than most other restaurants, he said—and serves it in one 12-inch size.
“It’s a thin crust but it’s not crackery. It’s very light,” he said.
It’s Brawner’s favorite style of pizza, and one that’s not available elsewhere in Bellingham, he said.
“I’m not trying to copy anyone else’s pizza in town,” Brawner said. “I knew I needed to identify something that wasn’t encroaching on existing business models and had some more room in the market.”
Brawner moved to Bellingham from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he worked as a corporate chef at Fire Artisan Pizza, in March. Matt Walker, a sous chef who worked with Brawner for the past three years, came along.
Brawner’s pizza career started in Bellingham nearly 10 years ago. He worked at Rudy’s Pizzeria in 2006 while studying cultural anthropology at Western Washington University. He continued his academic career in Amsterdam, where he earned a masters in political science and international conflict resolution. While going to school, he always worked in pizza restaurants.
In Coeur D’Alene, several entrepreneurs approached Brawner with offers to partner in new pizza restaurants, he said. He didn’t go for it, but instead started to consider opening his own pizza place.
He wanted to work and live in a college town for the cultural opportunities that he likes to be around and wanted to raise his son around, he said.
“You look for a couple different homes for your business so you’re not stuck if one doesn’t work out,” Brawner said. “Bellingham just kept looking good when other markets didn’t.”
Brawner and Walker built most of ÖVN’s interior during the last few months. It’s inspired by Brawner’s time in Amsterdam, where he and his wife developed an affinity for “clean, northern European design,” he said.
Besides pizza, ÖVN has a few appetizers, salads and desserts, as well as wine and seven beverages on tap. One tap will always be a cider, Brawner said. On opening day, six of the beverages on tap came from Washington and three were brewed in Bellingham.
Brawner has 15 employees at ÖVN, most of whom were working the first day. “A little more thyme,” he instructed a chef who had just slid a pizza off a wooden paddle and onto a tray atop the restaurant’s marble counter.
If Fairhaven is oversaturated with pizza, it didn’t show on ÖVN’s first afternoon. In the first hour, Brawner sat 12 groups, he said.
ÖVN is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.