June 1st, 2009 | City

Watch out, Pepe’s: Zinc to open a pizzeria

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Given the legacy of Pepe’s and Sally’s, the co-owner of the restaurant Zinc, Donna Curran, admitted it herself: “Do pizza in this town? That sounded crazy.”

But on June 11, her new venture — the “artisan” pizza eatery Kitchen Zinc — will take the place of Chow on Chapel Street, aiming to stand up to the storied New Haven pizza giants with locally grown ingredients, a high-tech brick oven and beer from small-batch breweries.

In an interview, Curran said that what will set Kitchen ZINC apart will be its focus on fresh ingredients, including Pecorino cheese from Beltane Farms in Lebanon, Conn., pepper made by one of Zinc’s employees and American-made La Quercia prosciutto.

“We’ll be sourcing all sorts of local tasty things,” she said. “We’re really, really excited about it because we are already doing it at Zinc and we thought this was a perfect way to extend that.”

Even the drinks will be local. Curran, along with Zinc co-owner and head chef Denise Appel, will be offering beer from a slew of small-batch brewers in Connecticut, including the New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, Conn., as well as a sustainably-produced ale made in Vermont. Curran said she and Appel are currently searching for small wineries with sustainable practices, too.

Curran said they have been holding pizza tastings for the past six months to perfect their recipes.  The samplings will continue this week, she said, since the eatery’s Marsal brick oven has only just been installed. The entirely brick-lined model, which Curran said she found at a food show, promises even heating and better crusts compared to a traditional oven.

The design for Kitchen Zinc is also eco-friendly, with a bar and tabletops made of cork. An outside patio will seat 40 people, and takeout will be available.

“Restaurants always have a high-end and a mid-end to them. We want to reach to that mid market,” Curran said. “The more we talked about, it seemed it was what everybody was interested in doing it. So why not?”

She added: “There’s always for room for everyone. We didn’t set ourselves out to compete with BAR or Sally’s or Pepe’s. Ours is a totally different approach.”

Kitchen Zinc will be open 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.