Green Zone’s pizzas are organic from top to bottom. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
A personality of its own is vital to any restaurant's long term success. And while Green Zone Pizza can't point to longevity yet — it is marking just its six-month anniversary today — it has already established its individuality in a sunny room in the rear of a building on the corner of Kercheval and Notre Dame in Grosse Pointe.
It's dedicated to organic ingredients from the dough for the pizza crust and the blend of mozzarella and provolone that tops it to the dried cherries and arugula in the salads, and also to supporting the environment with recycled, compostable and sustainable materials and chemical-free paint. The two-pronged effort in setting and food works seamlessly together.
Flooring is from shredded and repurposed tile; counters are made of recycled glass; tabletops are sustainable bamboo; and lighting, refrigeration and plumbing are energy efficient, setting the place apart from the typical pizzeria. That extends to the way the pizza is made, not in the classic brick oven over flames, but in a conveyor oven that uses air flow to cook the pies in lightning-fast fashion.
The square crust, available in white or wheat, has a nice heft and the signature pizzas include a couple that are Michigan-centric, one topped with shrimp farm-raised near Lansing, another with free-range chicken and Michigan cherry barbecue sauce. If you are looking for a gutsy Sicilian style pizza, this is not the place for you.
Green Zone makes its own sauces and dressings for the salads, including a Caesar dressing made with tofu and vinaigrette with the roasted beets and arugula dressed up with a scattering of walnuts and crumbled feta cheese.
Proprietor Marcus Weiderkehr is not a recent convert to the save-the-environment bandwagon. His family in Switzerland, from which he emigrated 20 years ago, has been into the green movement for many years, so it comes naturally to him.
The premise at Green Zone is simple and efficient. There's no waiting for someone to take the order, since patrons choose their dishes from a menu and beer and wine lists posted on the wall, then step up to the central counter to place the order and pick up a number to display on the table. When the food is ready, it is brought out by one of the friendly and helpful staff.
While pizza is the star of the show, there are a few other options, including three sandwich choices and some fresh salads. While silverware has replaced the flimsy plastic used when the place opened, plates are — what else? — compostable and the only glassware is for wine. There is no dishwasher, so the silverware and wine glasses are washed by hand. Weiderkehr is not kidding when he says he is concerned about the environment.
Wine drinkers are going to love the sophisticated Enomatic wine dispenser imported from Tuscany. It offers eight wines accessed by a prepaid card (from $5 to $500) that dispenses the chosen wine in a choice of three portion sizes when the card is inserted, then registers the amount left on the card. In addition to these premium wines, there is a more modest list served by the staff.
More than 100 of the refillable wine cards have been sold in the six months the restaurant has been open.
This is not a conventional pizzeria. Call it an interesting hybrid that adds its own spin to the pizza anthology. Those willing to try something a little different should appreciate the 21st century approach in both food and setting.
Look for Green Zone to turn up in another neighborhood. It has all the earmarks of a clone.