By Kara C. Rodriguez
Another new culinary concept by serial restaurateur Curtis Allred made its grand entrance onto the Leesburg dining scene this week.
Wild Wood Pizza opened its doors next to Cobb Theatres in the Village at Leesburg neighborhood. It’s the latest restaurant from Allred, who has also opened Delirium Cafe USA and Balls of Glory in downtown Leesburg.
The Wild Wood concept brings together several of Allred’s passions under one roof: an expansive beer and wine program, and both traditional and creative pizza items, all within a family-friendly restaurant setting.
Allred is keenly aware that a pizza restaurant is nothing new to Leesburg, a town that already counts fan favorites Fireworks, Solo, Giovanni’s, La Villa Roma, Rocco’s, Rubino’s, and more. While he acknowledges that each restaurant has its niche and draws a sizable following, he believes that Wild Wood offers something different.
He points to the expansive interior, with seating for up to 140 patrons and two semi-private dining rooms. It’s the kind of pizza joint where you can take a Little League team after a game, take the whole family to dinner, or just enjoy a couple’s night out. And if the restaurant’s size weren’t indication enough of its kid-friendliness, Allred points to a dividing wall where kids can leave their mark on a large chalkboard.
“We’re taking the coloring sheet and crayons to another level,” he said.
Art is a sizable centerpiece of the restaurant, with “graffiti” tagged on the beer draft lines and murals and paintings throughout the restaurant that pay homage to old-school New York City subway cars, as well as downtown Leesburg and the Village at Leesburg. They are the works of Purcellville-based Kevin Bednarz and Rodrigo Pradel, with Banksy prints in the rear of the space.
Wild Wood also brings together many associates from Allred’s lengthy culinary career. He worked with executive chef William Morris in the Washington, DC, restaurant scene, and it was serendipitous that the two came together for this project. Allred said Morris reached out to him when he saw Allred was looking for a kitchen manager for Wild Wood. It just so happened Morris had just completed a contract with the W Hotel in Washington, DC, and was traveling through Naples, Italy, further honing his Mediterranean cooking skills. Bar manager Chris Riley and wine director Min Pyo also previously worked with Allred. Even the company that provided custom-cut firewood to fill the shelves at the brick-oven pizzeria is one Allred worked with previously.
But, of course, the focus of any good restaurant is the menu and Allred makes it clear that, though there are non-pizza items on the menu, Wild Wood is through-and-through a pizzeria at heart. The pizza menu is broken into two categories, reverent and rebellious, with guests also able to create their own pies. The reverent pizzas pay homage to traditional, Italian-style pizzas, while the rebellious offerings bring forward a more modern, irreverent style. Asked his favorites from both menus, Allred said he is a big fan of the margherita pizza, with house-pulled mozzarella cheese, basil, san Marzano tomatoes, olive oil and sea salt.
“It’s as classic as you can get,” he said. “On the surface it’s the simplest but it’s probably the most decadent.”
On the rebellious side, he points to a pizza made in honor of one of his children, 10-year-old Grace. The San Andreas is made with pepperoni sauce, pepperoni, and hand-pulled mozzarella, and Allred said it is a pepperoni lover’s dream. He points to Grace’s preference of ordering a pepperoni pizza and picking off the meat. While she doesn’t like to eat pepperoni, she loves the taste it leaves behind on the cheese. With that in mind, Allred developed a sauce with pepperoni flavor and named the pizza for his daughter who’s “a little earthquake everywhere she goes.”
At the heart of all of his restaurant projects is the desire to create an experience, and Wild Wood is no different for Allred. He said that what guests remember from restaurants is not necessarily their favorite menu or bar item, but “the memory of the experience.”
Allred has turned his attention for the moment to getting Wild Wood off the ground, along with continuing to run Delirium. He has put on hold for the moment two other concepts he remains excited about: the reincarnated Balls of Glory meatball restaurant and Cake or Death. He closed Balls of Glory’s downtown location after less than a year in business but said he hopes to reprise it elsewhere. He had also announced plans to take over the former Leesburg Vintner space to open up Cake or Death, which was going to offer cupcakes and pastries from local bakers with alcohol service. However, he cited the need to focus on family as a reason for abandoning that plan.
Wild Wood Pizza is open for dinner service only, although Allred hopes to expand to include lunch service as soon as possible. Reservations are available on OpenTable.
For more information, go to wildwoodpizzeria.com.