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Serving up a different kind of pie

Los Angeles-based Pitfire Artisan Pizza will open a new Costa Mesa location in the former Marie Callender's building on East 17th Street.

August 21, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale | By Jenny Stockdale
  • A waitress carries two pizzas by Pitfire Artisan Pizza, which is coming to Costa Mesa this fall.
A waitress carries two pizzas by Pitfire Artisan Pizza,… (Courtesy PITFIRE…)

Once home to a Marie Callender's, which served sweet and savory pies for more than 45 years, the brick building at 353 E. 17th St. in Costa Mesa will reopen this fall to serve a whole new kind of doughy goodness: wood-fired pizza.

Los Angeles-based Pitfire Artisan Pizza is on track to open its sixth location here in early October, bringing a variety of rustic, fire-singed pizza recipes, a new community space and a 630-degree kiln.

Though details are still in the works, the owners plan to have a grand-opening event, and a series of preopening art installations and festivities to get to know their future regulars.

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2011, Perkins & Marie Callender's Inc. closed the Costa Mesa location, along with 30 others across the nation that were performing poorly.

The small diner near Westport Square sat vacant for less than a year before Pitfire founders Paul Hibler and David Sanfield set their sights on the property for their first branch-out into Orange County.

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The new location will pay homage to its Marie Callender's history and the legacy of pie business guru Mildred Pierce by incorporating a speak-easy. It will also feature a second kitchen equipped with an oven for testing new pizza ideas and for events and gatherings.

"This location will be the fruition of all my work at Pitfire," Hibler said Tuesday. "I've learned a lot doing this for so long. It's all about the intersection of food, design and communities. We curate each space in such a way that you would never think there's a big company behind it.

"It's unique to where it is and serves the community around it. That's our goal."

Pitfire already has locations in North Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Westwood, Mar Vista and West Hollywood, and another new store slated for Manhattan Beach.

"Moving into Orange County was a natural progression," Hibler said. "Costa Mesa has a lot of very fascinating projects going on right now, like the Lab and the Camp, and I'm really looking forward to meeting my new community."

With a focus on fresh ingredients and handmade dough — using trade-secret proportions of flour, water and yeast — the pizza company hopes to foster the burgeoning dining scene in Costa Mesa.

"I think our approach to food stands on its own," Hibler said. "I don't need to talk it up. We use the best to make the best."

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