Wood-fired pizza eatery to open in Kennewick

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldApril 21, 2013 

Fire Artisan Pizza is coming to Kennewick. That's the name of the restaurant opening in August and what you will be able to enjoy, the owners promise.

"We're entirely pizza focused. There are no burgers and fries on the menu. We make our own dough, our own sausage, all our sauces and our salad dressings. It's all done in house," said Doug Johnson, formerly of the Tri-Cities and now from Coeur d'Alene.

"We want to deliver a really gourmet wood-fired pizza experience and not dilute it with anything else," he said. His two partners are Paul Cartee of Liberty Lake and John Cardosa of Phoenix.

The restaurant will have 14 pizzas on the menu, plus rotating specials, depending on what fresh produce is in season and what specialty meats are available.

Some of their more exotic offerings will include the Gordy, with dates, gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses, olive oil and a balsamic reduction. Another specialty is the Parma, with prosciutto, gorgonzola, pecorino, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, finished with truffle oil.

They also will offer the Billy, with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olives, tomato sauce, and fresh arugula.

Prices will start at $13 and go up to $16 for the hand-tossed, oval pizzas that feed about two or so.

Fire Artisan Pizza also will serve crafted and bottled beers and Northwest and Italian wines.

"We just do a few things and do them really well," Johnson said.

The new pizza restaurant will be at the corner of Columbia Center Boulevard and Colorado Street, across from Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, at the site of the former Tri-City Development Council building.

The new, two-story building will have seating for 70 on the first floor with additional outdoor seating and then room for 140 diners on the second floor.

This will be the trio's third Fire Artisan Pizza restaurant. They opened their first in Coeur d'Alene in June 2011 and one in Spokane in January 2013.

The other two restaurants are smaller. The Spokane pizzaria seats 60 while the one in Coeur d'Alene seats 50 diners. Both feature an informal decor with lots of exposed wooden beams, earthtoned walls and, of course, neatly stacked cords of wood by the oven.

At first the partners considered keeping all the restaurants a similar size. But when they discovered the new building being built on Columbia Center Boulevard, they seized on the chance for a larger restaurant.

"Our decision was based mainly on the location with its large volume of traffic. The market really warrants it," Johnson said.

Johnson is particularly familiar with the area. He was born in Kennewick and grew up on a farm north of Pasco.

"I'm down here often. All the fruit wood we burn comes from the Tri-City area," he said.

Johnson is well versed in the restaurant business. When he was a student at Columbia Basin College in the mid-1980s he worked at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco.

When the Coeur d'Alene Resort opened in the '80s, the Red Lion's director of catering was hired by the resort. "And I followed her there," Johnson said.

He worked at the resort for 11 years before leaving to manage a boutique hotel and restaurant in Spokane. He met his two partners at another job, and when that ended the three decided to go into the restaurant business.

"In our travels around the country we had discovered the wood-fired pizza concept. We liked it and decided to pool our resources and opened our first restaurant. It really took off," he said.

Johnson said they're interviewing now for a restaurant manager and kitchen manager for the new Kennewick outlet. They'll employ almost 30 people, both full and part time.

-- To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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