Matt Kitzmiller has worn enough hats in the food industry over the past 25 years to amass quite a collection: waiter, manager, cashier, bartender, delivery driver, pastry chef, to name a few. He’s a baker at Mirabelle Fine Pastries in downtown Urbana, and, for the last five years, the man responsible for its much-coveted, nighttime pizza joint, Pizza M.
Within the next few months, Pizza M will be moving down the block to a permanent space — 208 W. Main St., right next to Siam Terrace — and he’ll be switching hats once again, this time to restaurant owner.
For those unfamiliar with Pizza M, think less along the lines of Domino's and more of California Pizza Kitchen. Though Kitzmiller serves the traditional cheese and meat and veggie varieties, he is perhaps best loved for his "specialty" pies.
Some of them are always on the menu, like "The Pear," which is topped with caramelized onion, brie, mozzarella, and, as the name suggests, slices of pear. Others are daily specials that use fresh ingredients from the local Saturday farmers market or food co-op. Matt Cho, who recently bought the building that will house the new Pizza M, said his favorite special is the kind topped with bacon and over-easy eggs.
Pizza is "a vehicle for flavor," Kitzmiller said. "It's nice to be able to play with it."
Currently, he serves pizza out of Mirabelle three nights a week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 6:30 until 9:00, or whenever the ingredients run out. (On a particularly busy night recently, he sold out in an hour.) Customers can pick them up at the bakery or buy slices at Buvons, the wine bar attached to The Corkscrew in Urbana.
The new Pizza M, which Kitzmiller hopes to open by this summer, is a chance for him to expand his menu and let him keep up with demand in a bigger space, he said. Cho said the owner of Mirabelle has been supportive of Kitzmiller's transition: "That kind of local growth and encouragement, that's something that we're embracing."
The concept for the building, which is a collaboration between the two Matts, is a sort of cafe meets casual lunch, meets Italian dining, all under one roof. Coffee and pizza are definitely in the mix, Cho said, but they're keeping an open mind and looking for more collaborators who have ideas for the space. They also want to get the local music scene involved.
But no matter what, pizza maker is a hat Kitzmiller is keeping for a while, and for good reason. "It seems from my experience that pretty much everybody likes pizza," he said. Or, at the very least, his pizza.