10 Questions: Charlie Green
He spent a lot of time in and around the pizza joints of New York--minus four years spent at a Pennsylvania college and a bit living in D.C.
So it's no wonder Green longed for a taste of the familiar after moving to Dallas. He sold medical supplies and software for 17 years and then took the plunge. In 2007 he opened Olivella's near the SMU campus.
Next week marks his second anniversary as a restaurateur. In fact, Green plans to expand, readying a location called A3 to sell pizza by the slice and setting up a space in Victory Park.
So why is it you sometimes see him munching away at the neighborhood Pizza Hut...?
1. Why is pizza so challenging?
I think burgers are a challenge, too. It's hard to find a good burger. But I just went back to New York and ate about 30 pizzas. It struck me that there are a lot of different kinds of pizza. Our aesthetic is the right amount of sauce and cheese. Some in New York are so thin, they're terrific. But that's an entirely different flavor profile than the thicker ones.
2. Could you do a Chicago style pizza?
I supposed we could learn, if we had a good recipe. But I wouldn't know if it was good or not, that's the thing.
3. Why are there so many different styles?
I guess because it's easy to make--just bread with tomato and cheese. You go from there.
4. So what's the key to pizza?
For me, it's the flavor of the sauce and the ratio of cheese to sauce to dough. Some people will say 'oh, you have the best crust,' but that's not the thing that occurs to me.
5. So would you eat a Pizza Hut stuffed crust?
I could try it. There've been times I've been known to sneak around the corner to Pizza Hut and order their bread sticks and sit in the window. Some of my wait staff will see me and say 'you can't do that.'
6. Why get into the restaurant business?
I had no aspirations ever to be in restaurants. I'm an entrepreneur and I'm passionate about great pizza. I just felt like there was an opportunity and I wasn't afraid of owning my own business. But I went in very naively. We didn't have wait staff when we opened and didn't have bus boys for weeks--until I realized we need these people. It's not always fun, but it is rewarding.
7. Ever regret it?
Infrequently. I worked every day from Christmas until two weeks ago. I came back and walked into the restaurant and the lights were on too high and there were 17 other things I saw before I took 20 steps. I almost walked straight out the back into the alley. But the next day it was fun again.
8. What is the best pizza you've tried?
My all time favorite is the Pines of Rome in Bethesda, Maryland. The guy who owns it--he's been there something like 40 years--is from Bari in Italy. It's not always perfect, but I always look forward to it.
9. So when you're not around pizza...
Lately I've been eating at Asian Mint. I like a good burger. I don't eat real healthy stuff. I don't have a fancy or sophisticated palate.
10. Does every campus need a pizza joint?
I don't know. Our plan is to start delivering on the SMU campus, so we'll find out. I guess pizza is fast, not particularly expensive and you can eat it cold. And for a lot of kids, volume is the important thing. So, yeah.
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