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April 14, 2016

Wood-fired pizza coming to downtown

The Columbian

Brooks Johnson

Vancouver's food scene is on fire, with new restaurants and food carts stoking new energy downtown.

The latest announced addition: a wood-fired pizza shop set to open this summer in the former Vancouver School of Beauty at West Sixth and Main streets.

"It's going to be a traditional, wood-fired oven pizzeria in the style of Naples cuisine," said owner Joey Chmiko, a longtime chef who recently moved with his wife, a metro-area native, from New York. "We're going to buy the best ingredients we can afford, sourced from local farms and vendors as much as possible. We're going to make our own mozzarella."

The news comes as plans for two waterfront restaurants - Warehouse '23 and Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar - are underway, buoying a recent uptick in downtown Vancouver eateries, with the addition of Low Bar, The Grocery Cocktail & Social and Heathen Brewing.

"There's a lot going on," Chmiko said, thrilled and confident at his future prospects.

Chmiko and his wife, Alder Suttles, are planning for an Aug. 1 opening for their as-yet-unnamed pizzeria, though that could get pushed back to Sept. 1.

While this is their first restaurant, the two have a combined 30 years of experience working in big restaurants in several major cities.

"We have lots of experience coming behind us," Chmiko said. "When you work in good restaurants, you learn a lot. Everything is going to be well taken care of and well-crafted."

Having recently moved from Brooklyn to Portland, they decided "now is the time" to open their own restaurant. In their search for a site, Vancouver started looking more and more attractive, they said.

"We started spending more time over here, looking around and exploring more, and realizing there's a real need and desire for our restaurant we're going to bring to this area," Chmiko said.

The pizzeria at 110 W. Sixth St. will take up less than a quarter of the old beauty school, which is 6,000-plus square feet.

The centerpiece of the restaurant will be the wood-fired oven, offering 12-inch or 14-inch pies. The oven - with custom tile work by California's Forno Bravo - is set to be delivered next month.

"Our aesthetic will be black and white and wood, pretty classic Italian style," Chmiko said. "It's going to have a very specific feel, and have a very comfortable and familiar dining experience."

The 81-year-old Schofield Building is getting new life, as current tenant Vintage Vignette on Sixth Street will eventually have new neighbors and the block itself will get a facelift, said real estate agent Caryl Brown, a vice president at Kidder Mathews.

As developers and entrepreneurs place their bets on Vancouver's future, the pizza payout is getting ever closer.

"We're leaving North Portland. We're moving here, too," Chmiko said. "Our chips are all in."

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