Chorney-Booth: Acme Pizza Co. joins the neighbourhood in Renfrew

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As much as restaurants can provide a sense of momentary escape during troubled times, they are obviously not immune to upheaval stemming from world events. The challenges of being a restaurateur in the 2020s have been well-documented and even business owners dedicated to the art of upscale dining have found themselves looking for concepts that are both pandemic and recession-proof. No single food fits that description more than the humble pizza.

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When the group behind the dearly departed restaurants Gorilla Whale, The Goose, and Gwailo saw their restaurants being knocked down by the confluence of conditions in the last three years, they decided pizza would be a good bet. The Acme Pizza Co. was launched in the summer of 2022 at the Two House Brewing Company in Sunalta, with a new shop in Renfrew opening late last month. Now, pizza may feel like a safe business plan – it’s affordable, easily customizable, and almost everyone seems to love it – but owner-operator Jason Wankel and director of operations Dean Symonds are far from the first Calgarians to recently get into the pizza biz.

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After decades of being dominated by thick Greek-style pizza, our local pizza scene has expanded to offer multiple takes on New York, Detroit, Napoletana, California, and almost every other style of pizza pies, with some outstanding results. When Acme launched, the team knew they were entering a packed, if not over-saturated market and would have to stand out to survive.

“With the last couple of years of restaurant life we’ve all had to suffer through, pizza seemed like a fun, casual thing to do,” Wankel says. “Even if you’re vegetarian or gluten-free, there’s a pizza for everyone and we liked the idea of being able to reach a lot of people.”

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Fresh ingredients are prepared at Acme Pizza. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

The pizza at Acme is, objectively, very good. Head baker Scott Bouchard developed a Roman-style dough that cold ferments for two days, resulting in a tangy crust that is thin and crispy, but also has enough structure to hold a variety of toppings. Those toppings are where the real magic comes in: Acme offers creations like a Carbonara pizza topped with Parmesan cream, mozzarella, and bacon ($23), the “Saporita” with walnut cream, prosciutto, and honey ($23), and the vegetarian “Ortolana” with romesco sauce, eggplant, and feta ($21) as well as solid versions of Margherita ($19) and pepperoni ($19) pizzas. The pies are all 12 inches in size and large enough for two people with moderate appetites to share (a significantly hungry person could probably polish off a single pizza on their own, so do order accordingly).

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The Margherita and Carne pizzas are shown side by side at Acme Pizza.  Jim Wells/Postmedia

With pizza ovens at the ready from a previous tenant and an eager population in the central north part of the city, the Acme crew decided the new Renfrew location was a perfect kitchen to help them keep up with their take-out orders while still properly serving the dine-in crowd at Two House. The new digs are small – there’s basically a kitchen and a front counter for picking up orders, but it certainly expands Acme’s footprint. Customers can opt for a third-party delivery option through the Acme website or, if they’re in the neighbourhood, place an order and pick it up themselves.

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The new Acme Pizza Co. location is at 1025 Russet Rd. N.E. and is open from 4 p.m. onward Wednesday through Sunday. For more information or to place an order, visit acmepizza.ca.

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Pizza boxes are ready for takeout at Acme Pizza in Renfrew. You can dine in on the pizza at Two House Brewing in Sunalta.  Jim Wells/Postmedia

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While Renfrew isn’t nearly as saturated with commercial businesses as many other neighbourhoods in Calgary, Acme isn’t the only great food business on its block. The shop sits next door to a little spot called Stoop Café, which has quietly established itself as one of the city’s great hidden gems.

Stoop, which opened in July 2022 in a former medical office, is the creation of brothers Ty and Jaret Loria, the original duo behind Monki Bistro (that chain has longed since changed hands). The Lorias, who grew up with restaurateur parents and know the hours that come with dinner service all too well, wanted to continue the balanced lifestyle that comes with running a daytime-only restaurant, while also sticking to Renfrew, the neighbourhood they’ve called home since their childhood.

Just like Acme, the Lorias are taking a formula – coffee and sandwiches – that you can find in various forms around the city while elevating things considerably. The exact combinations vary, but at any given time Stoop has four breakfast sandwiches (available exclusively in the morning), four baguette sandwiches, and four panini sandwiches on offer, with fillings like beef and kimchi, Philly cheese steak, or Cubano-style slow-roasted pork, all of which have to be tasted firsthand to be truly appreciated.

In an unintended move, the hours at Stoop complement those at Acme (if one is closed, the other is likely open to serve hungry Renfrewians): the café is open Tuesday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends. Stoop is located at 1027 Russet Rd. N.E. and can be reached through Instagram at @thestoopyyc.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @elizabooth or sign up for her newsletter at hungrycalgary.substack.com.

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The Burrata Pizza, drizzled with balsamic is shown at Acme Pizza.  Jim Wells/Postmedia
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The Ortolana pizza is ready and fresh out of the oven at Acme Pizza.  Jim Wells/Postmedia

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