Pizza is never just pizza. Pizza is primal. Pizza is happiness. Pizza heals and makes everything better. In good times and bad, pizza is always there for you. Which is precisely why we need awesome joints like &pizza in our lives. Although they haven’t hit Portland or NYC yet, we have no doubt that they’ve got big plans up their (black & white) sleeve. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., &pizza has fast and furiously blown up to become one of the must-see spots throughout the capital city.
Known for their modern and edgy aesthetic, trademark ampersand (they’ll even pay for your tattoo if you’re interested in getting inked with it), and delicious made-from-scratch pies and sodas, &pizza isn’t without their soft side. Dedicated to community involvement and enrichment, the &pizza tribe isn’t just out to serve themselves – they’re here to help us all. If pizza didn’t already have such a solid reputation, we’d say &pizza is giving pointy slices of cheesy baked dough a good name.
You can find Schoolhouse Electric fixtures throughout &pizza and as such big fans of the brand, we wanted to share a bit more of their story. We chatted with Heidi Guerard (pictured above), the Creative Director of &pizza, about what makes them so awesome, her design inspiration and places to get the creative juices flowing next time you're in D.C.
How would you describe &pizza?
"An anti-establishment establishment."
Where does the name come from?
"Our brand is about inspiring connections through a shared experience, and an ampersand quite literally connects two words - so for us, it’s a symbol that really stands for who we are and what we believe in. The name is intentionally left generic so that it can be dynamic and flexible in how it’s used."
What inspired you to join the team at &pizza and can you tell us a bit about your background?
"My background is in graphic design and then interior architecture. I worked as a restaurant designer for a few years, &pizza was a client. I had been a fan of the brand from the guest perspective from the day The OG shop opened in 2012 (actually the day before. I accidentally crashed their pre-opening party!) The more I got to know the brand ethos the more I was hooked. I joined the tribe a little over 2 years ago, going from Shop Designer to Creative Director. We are a small and scrappy team, which allows for a few people sitting around our open office to get really creative and then see those ideas come to life in a short time. That never gets old."
Describe the décor style – what type of look and feel were you going for with the design?
"Our style is simple + bold across the brand and this carries to our interiors. We are urban and edgy. We don’t follow design trends and we don’t look like a typical pizza shop. But our design ethos is to curate a cohesive and unified interior with minimal noise and then go for one big move. Each of our pizza shops is designed to reflect the community it serves, so is the ‘big move' a photo montage of community members, or it is a 10’ ampersand patched and riveted into a diagram of the neighborhood streets, or a pattern abstracted from the history of the property?"
Why did you choose schoolhouse fixtures for your space, and why those in particular?
"We like to mix in some traditional materials, fixtures, and furniture to create a modern pizza shop with a feel for the familiar. The Schoolhouse factory pendants are a timeless design that was relevant 10 years ago, is relevant today, and will still look fresh 10 years from now."
What are your favorite spots in the DC area from a design perspective?
"We’re lucky to have a lot of areas to look for design inspiration around here. Classics like the third floor of the American Art Museum, and the Arboretum. Cool collaborations amongst the design community like POW!WOW! and Made in DC. And then a constant rotation of pop ups at places like Lab 1270, Mess Hall, Dock 5."
The best pizza combo order? Any secrets we should know about?
"We’ll always look to craft your pie exactly how you want it, but we recommend going with one of our signature pies, or as we like to call them, the hits. The crowd favorite is the Maverick: classic tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, finished with a pesto drizzle and parmesan cheese. Every one of our employees (or as we call them, tribe members) always has a pro tip, so just ask next time you’re in one of the shops."
What do you like most about your neighborhood?
"The best part about each neighborhood we have a shop in is that they each have their own distinctive “flavor.” Community is something that’s at the core of who we are and what we do. We look to connect the store design and the aesthetic to the neighborhood. A couple examples would be U Street, which has a large brass ampersand to pay tribute to the jazz history there, or K Street, located just a few blocks from the White House, containing primarily white finishes and a Warhol-esque mural of JFK. It’s this local flavor that gives each of our guests a pizza shop they can call their own."
What can you get at &pizza that you can’t get anywhere else?
"We are constantly evolving our menu, sourcing high quality ingredients to build flavor profiles that are distinctly our own. We love to find local makers who are like-minded and work together to create something new - Gordy’s Pickle Jar’s pickled red onions, Runningbyrd Tea’s Peach Ginger tea, Sloppy Mamma’s Cherry Bomb BBQ sauce, Moon Cheese’s feta croutons. We also have our own line of housemade craft sodas that use all-natural flavor and pure cane sugar."
Tell us what you hope people experience when they come in to your restaurant?
"Everything we do at &pizza is part of a carefully curated experience--from the shop design, to the music, to the menu, we want every visit to feel like something you just can’t get anywhere else, whether you’re in our shop for 10 minutes or two hours. When we make decisions about our brand experience, we use our four core values as a guide: celebrate oneness, elevate everything, keep it fresh, and make it personal. We want that to come through for each and every guest."
Who (besides you) should we follow on Instagram? (we’re always looking for recommendations.)
"Locally check out our guys Tamon (@tamon_), Gary (@masterwilliams), James (@thisisjamesj), and Kelly (@kellytowles). Of course, our fearless leader and brand visionary Michael (@_lastoria). A Creative DC (@acreativedc) is also a dope movement here in DC being spearheaded by Morgan West (@pandaheadmorgan). Some brands we’re inspired by are Urban Cowboy (@urbancowboybnb), Alfred Coffee (@alfredcoffee), Native Shoes (@nativeshoes), and Smoke x Mirrors (@smokexmirrorsny)."
Photography courtesy of &pizza