Two trendy restaurant chains are cooking up something new for Cambridge.
After months of public meetings and heated debate, &pizza will be able to open its doors in Harvard Square. The Board of Zoning Appeal approved a special permit for the chain’s joint venture with Milk Bar on Thursday.
There is no official opening date, but it is expected to open some time in early 2018.
The joint restaurant will be the first foray into Massachusetts for both brands. &pizza currently has more than 20 locations in Washington, D.C.; New York; Maryland; Pennsylvania; and Virginia. Milk Bar is well-known in foodie circles, a Momofuku offshoot specializing in baked goods, ice cream, pies, and other treats.
“We’re pleased with the outcome of last night’s hearing and are excited to bring the first &pizza x Milk Bar concept to Harvard Square. We will continue to be conscientious in our approach to what we can offer the square to add to its rich cultural identity,” a statement from &pizza said.
On its website, &pizza describes itself as “an anti-establishment establishment built on the renown of its creative pies and craft beverages, localized shop design, and the strength, unity and vibe of its living-wage-paid, ampersand-tattooed Tribe.”
Speaking of that tribe, &pizza has drawn attention for its policy of paying for its employees to get tattoos of the chain’s ampersand logo. Employees even call themselves “tribe members.”
“We’re not doing this because we want [employees] to swear their allegiance to us like we’re some insane dictator,” Michael Lastoria, &pizza cofounder and chief executive, told The Washington Post in 2016. “We’re doing it because we listen to our people. They love the symbol, they love the look of it, and they love what it stands for.”
The Washington-based pizza chain had originally planned to move to the 1324 Massachusetts Ave. location on its own. But when it faced the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeal in April, it failed to meet the required four-vote supermajority.
Board chairman Constantine Alexander and cochair Brendan Sullivan dissented, citing concerns about traffic congestion and a potential change to the “character” of the neighborhood.
In July, &pizza announced that it would partner with New York bakery Milk Bar to increase the variety of its offerings. The partnership will entail two separate businesses. They will operate independently while sharing the same space.
“We’ve listened to the community and heard loud and clear that they’re looking for more than just another pizza shop,” Lastoria said in a July statement. “They want a neighborhood partner. &pizza stands for connection, inclusion and unity, and joining forces with Milk Bar is a perfect example of how we will bring those values directly to Cambridge.”
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