Maggie's Wood-Fired Pizza expands menu, moves to Iowa City

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Maggie’s Farm Wood-Fired Pizza has come a long way from its days as a mobile pizza oven serving up pies at local farmers markets.

The eatery, which operated for years at NewBo City Market, opened in mid-August as its own brick-and-mortar space in the new development One University Place in Iowa City. But remark on the significance of their transition from food truck to market stand to stand-alone business, and owners Jerry Zimmermann and Carolyn Brown will be quick to share the credit.

“It’s not standing alone, it’s standing on the shoulders of a group of people who know what they’re doing and are very determined to make it work,” Zimmermann said.

Roc Kemmerer, former owner of Ride in Iowa City, came on board as general manager, and David Wieseneck, who formerly owned longtime Iowa City eatery The Motley Cow, signed on as the chef. In addition to the pizzas previously served in Cedar Rapids, Maggie’s menu includes new pies along with a full slate of side dishes and desserts. Some new menu items came from Zimmermann and Brown, some from Wieseneck.

Getting some of the new additions on the menu, like the Funghi pizza, with mushrooms, poached egg, arugula and roasted garlic, took a bit of convincing by Wieseneck.

“I had a very rigid view of the pizzas we wanted to serve,” Zimmermann said. “He was very clever in getting me to expand that.”

The new menu was very much a collaboration, Wieseneck said.

“We rounded it out with really classic Old World Italian sides, antipasto and salads,” he said. “I want to help fulfill their vision of the menu.”

Zimmermann and Brown approached him after learning he was closing the Motley Cow. He said he doesn’t regret transitioning from owner to employee.

“It’s a luxurious position to be able to contribute my ideas to help bolster their products, but the pressure of it is very different,” he said. “I take full responsibility for every dish going out of the kitchen, but I don’t have to think about whole universes outside of the kitchen. It’s very liberating.”

As University Heights residents, Zimmermann and Brown originally fought the building of One University Place, a mixed-use residential and commercial development just down the road from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Kinnick Stadium. But when they realized the project would go ahead, they thought they could improve its impact by being involved.

“We thought, what if we could bring an environment to share food and have a moment with family and friends and have some peace together in this very trying time in the world? That’s what we set out to do,” Brown said.

The restaurant’s red rafters reflect the 160-year-old red barn on their 35-acre farm in Oxford, also called Maggie’s Farm. They bought the land in 2003 in part to give their 16-year-old labradoodle, Maggie, a place to run. Now the farm grows much of the garlic, basil and tomatoes that make it onto the restaurant’s dishes.

Brown said, in a way, they’ve been preparing to open this restaurant for decades, even as they worked in other careers in academics, law and business.

“For 35 years we’ve been testing pizzas in cities around the world, and observing the kinds of environments that make people happy,” she said. “NewBo was the incubator — it gave us a great opportunity to test the product, and that gave us great confidence.”

EAT UP! WHAT: Maggie’s Farm Wood-Fired Pizza

WHERE: 1308 Melrose Ave., Iowa City

HOURS: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday

DETAILS: (319) 351-4588, Maggiesfarmpizza.com

l Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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