YEAH YEAHS PIZZA: Dartmouth pizza joint delivers equal parts community and quality pies
For Dean Petty, finding the perfect location for Yeah Yeahs Pizza was a slice. He didn’t have to look far. In fact, he only had to look up.
When The Canteen decided to move to a bigger location in January, they left a spot above Two If By Sea and Anchored Coffee in Dartmouth.
Petty, co-owner at Anchored Coffee, saw the space as an opportunity to do something cool for the community. But upon first glance, he had no idea what that something would be.
Three months later, Petty and his partner Josh Nordin had committed to going all in on transforming the space, and the spontaneous idea of Yeah Yeahs was born.
Nordin previously worked at Field Guide in Halifax for three years, but now he and Petty were moving on to something new: pizza.
“Why pizza?” Nordin asks. “Because who doesn’t love pizza?”
The decision to go the pizza route was pretty easy. The space that The Canteen had left behind was ideal for grab-and-go’s and casual food. They wanted to keep it simple, affordable and accessible.
But the choice to go with these pies wasn’t entirely about their portable nature. In fact, a lot of it had to do with getting people to stick around. Petty says that pizza is the ultimate community-building food and something that bridges the gap between kids and adults to make everybody happy.
“I remember growing up and going to Kittery House Pizza every Friday with my family,” says Petty. He wants Yeah Yeahs to create that same type of family routine.
Having a space that was designed with families in mind was important to Petty and Nordin. They wanted Yeah Yeahs to be somewhere kids would feel comfortable. “There’s nothing better than seeing a kid eating a big slice of pizza with this particular look on his face of just joy,” says Nordin.
The cozy space has long communal tables for sharing pies, and on the walls are paper plates covered in kids’ crayon creations. On a retro TV in the corner, a VHS of The Sandlot is playing. “We just wanted to create a super over-the-top fun environment that kind of feels like there’s no boundary between being a guest and being one of us,” says Petty.
“It’s like Chuck E. Cheese’s,” adds Nordin. “But with good pizza.”
But although the vibe is casual, the pizza is far from your local delivery. Petty and Nordin spent months creating a menu of perfect pies. “We definitely knew that there had to be a quality focus, because that’s what this whole building represents: simplicity but done very well,” says Nordin.
One of their personal favorites is The White pizza. The pie has parmesan, mozzarella, fior di latte, roasted mushrooms and a squeeze of lemon. But they say the big “aha!” moment for them was adding the charred green onion.
Sal Mosca, who worked at The Canteen, offered some of his expertise when they were creating pizza recipes. “Sal adores pizza, he loves pizza, he’s studied pizza and he’s a wizard when it comes to dough making,” says Nordin.
Three months before opening, Mosca was in twice a week testing out different doughs with Petty and Nordin. Mosca immersed them in his own all-intensive dough camp where they learned the ins and outs of creating the perfect Yeah Yeahs dough. “We would figure out what we liked and then with Sal’s genius we could determine what it was we had to do differently,” says Nordin.
Mosca helped them create a dough that had their perfect balance of crisp, chew and pull. “A huge thing was having a slice stand up with the half-fold,” says Petty. “That was an actual parameter for us: no floppy slices.”
Even before opening officially in June, Yeah Yeahs received a ton of support from the Dartmouth community. They talk about the camaraderie within the neighbourhood, where people want to see local businesses succeed. “They were buying gift certificates before we were even open,” says Nordin.
The support from the community and from their team of employees has made it possible for them to recently open up a second location in Toronto. For the young business, it was a big accomplishment. For the people of Toronto, a chance to taste some Halifax donair sauce with their garlic fingers.
The pair think a location in Halifax would be the next step, but for now, barely a year in, they’re just enjoying the ride.
“We’re making pizza!” Nordin says. “On a Friday night when it’s busy as hell it’s the most fun shift. Yeah, you’re getting kind of beat up because it’s constant, but it’s so much fun and the staff is always laughing. I always love coming into work.” yeahyeahspizza.com