Michigan's Best Local Eats: Pizza Katerina specializes in 'non-traditional interactions,' fun and za

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KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI — At Pizza Katerina, one doesn’t leave a stranger, or hungry.

Spend just a little bit of time with Melodie Holman and one will likely realize there are two types of customers at the pizza shop, located at 635 N. 9th St., in Oshtemo Township.

There’s the regulars, and friends Holman has not yet met.

Related: Family takes the reins at Kalamazoo’s Pizza Katerina, adding their own flair

“We specialize in non-traditional interactions,” Holman said before sitting down at a table with first-time guests on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 4. “People remember how you make them feel.”

Holman knows a bit what it’s like to be treated like a regular at the shop. Prior to purchasing Pizza Katerina from original owners Paul and Kathleen Harris in 2021, Holman, her husband Jimmy, along with the couple’s five children who help run the store, had themselves been regulars.

Since taking over, they’ve tried to ensure all guests are treated like family and remain focused on building relationships just as much as they are continuing to sell the same Neapolitan-style pizza and fresh bread that made Pizza Katerina’s fanbase a loyal one prior to the Holmans purchasing the restaurant.

While some things have no doubt stayed the same, the Holmans have also added their own flair, offering up specialty pizzas such as the Thai pizza, a pesto pizza and the Sweet Heat, the latter of which Melodie Holman described as “a little bit of sweet and a little of heat.”

“It won’t blow your face off, and it won’t hit you until the second bite,” she said.

The Sweet Heat is made with a special Sichuan chili crisp sauce which is mixed with agave and Pizza Katerina’s own sauce. The pie is then topped with cheese and pepperoni, crushed mozzarella and a drizzle of agave. It initially had vegetables on there too, but people only think they want vegetables, Holman joked.

A recent trip to New York also inspired a new approach into how the pizzeria makes its slices — which are offered between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

“When we went to New York, what we found out was how to do real New York City slices, and now we know that they put all their pizzas on racks (as opposed to in warmers), take them out let them cool and then stick them in the oven (to heat them up),” Holman said. “The slices are better than they were before.”

Slice offerings on MLive’s recent visit included the Sweet Heat, pepperoni, cheese and what Holman calls the “meaty man, aka the widow-maker,’ which consists of bacon, pepperoni, sausage and cheese.

Another thing new to the menu since the family’s return from the Big Apple was the NY White, a five-cheese pizza made of ricotta, pecorino, shredded and fresh mozzarella and burrata.

And while the NY White is expected to have year-round staying power, the Holmans do like to mix things up by offering a handful of seasonal specialty pizzas, along with the menu staples.

A current favorite right now is the lemon Tuscan chicken pizza, which features homemade pesto, two cheeses, Scotts BBQ chicken and fresh basil.

Beginning Sept. 1, one can expect pizzas such as the avocado-based Tex-Mex pizza, a lemon-coated walnut pizza, a jalapeno popper pizza made with homemade ranch, chopped and sliced jalapeno, and bacon, and the figgy pear pizza, the latter of which is highlighted by figs soaked in red wine, shallots, lemon and juice, ground up and served with fresh sliced pears and prosciutto.

If interested in trying them all at once, one need only keep an eye out on Pizza Katerina’s Facebook page for announcements on the September Pizza Pull, where they can get four slices and a fresh ‘garlic in the knot’ for just $10.

The knots, Holman says, have enough garlic to let you know it’s there, but not enough to chase away vampires.

The garlic, like most of the ingredients was no doubt purchased by Julie Wilson, the pizzeria’s “shopper, chopper and sauce maker extraordinaire,” according to Holman.

Holman spends three days a week frequenting farmer markets and visiting local farms as well as other local shops to find the right ingredients for the menu.

“There’s some stuff we buy in bulk and I love it, but you’re not going to buy 75,000 pounds of red onions,” Holman joked.

For more information or to place an order, visit pizzakaterina.com or call 269-216-3651.

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