The star-powered Pizzeria Mozza couldn't make it in San Diego, but the developer of the old police headquarters is banking on a Las Vegas-based pizza and beer restaurant to thrive in the long-vacated space.
Seven months after the pizzeria helmed by nationally acclaimed restaurateur Nancy Silverton abruptly left the Headquarters at Seaport, Flour & Barley has signed on to take over the 4,300-square-foot space.
Parent company Block16 Hospitality had in fact been interested in locating a dining venue at the Headquarters long before it opened in 2013, but the particular space the company wanted was a bit too large for its needs, said Block 16 Corporate Chef Anthony Meidenbauer.
"We always had our eye on San Diego, it's a great feeder market to Vegas, so it's a great location for the growth of our company," Meidenbauer said. "We have looked at the Gaslamp, Embarcadero, Seaport Village. When they started redoing this historic (police headquarters) building, we thought it was a great concept, creating this cool, fun shopping venue."
The $40 million Headquarters, nearly a decade in the making, has experienced some growing pains since its debut, as some retailers and Pizzeria Mozza moved out and the developer, Terramar, fielded concerns from tenants about the cost of valet parking and the center's interior courtyard, which did not attract the volumes of visitors they had expected.
Meidenbauer said he is confident that his casual pizza and craft beer restaurant, which will also cater to sports fans, will be far more approachable than Mozza, a popular brand conceived by Silverton, who teamed with celebrity chef Mario Batali and his partner, Joe Bastianich.
Pizzeria Mozza, which has locations in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, lasted only a year at the downtown center, bedeviled by complaints about poor service that some say led to its downfall.
"Our brand is more fun and energetic," insisted Meidenbauer. "We were here the other day, sitting outside and people were walking around, and this one woman asked, 'Are you the new restaurant people?' She said Mozza was just so snobby and disconnected with the people, and we had heard that through a lot of channels. We're a brand that's very approachable and we're not putting fancy words on the menu. We want to tap in to the beer culture of San Diego."
While Meidenbauer would not say precisely how much Block 16 is investing in reinventing the Mozza space, he did say it would be less than $1 million. Flour & Barley, which opened its first location in Las Vegas a little more than a year ago, will be using the two existing pizza ovens that it will embellish with "Ferrari red" tiles. And in a nod to baseball, the booths will be covered with a leather that resembles what is used for baseball gloves.
The remodeled restaurant, he said, will have a rustic feel, designed with natural wood and brick finishes, a mural at the back bar, vintage posters and black-and-white sports photography. The patio area will grow from 1,100 square feet to 1,800.
Expected to open by September or October, Flour & Barley will offer, in addition to pizzas, a variety of appetizers, salads and main courses. The 11-inch pies, Meidenbauer said, will likely range in price from $11 to $17.
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