When Richard Warner sold City Slicker Cafe — a mostly takeout joint best known for its crispy pan-pizza — he thought he was walking away from the Somerville restaurant for good. But when he got wind that his longtime customers were unhappy with the new owner’s pie, he decided it was time to buy back the business.
“I’ve been in Somerville for almost 20 years, and people have been eating the pizza for 20 years. So then when it changed abruptly, a lot of people were shocked and upset,” says Warner, who ran another Somerville restaurant, Urban Gourmet, from 1998 to 2007.
Under Warner, City Slicker served bar pie, a kind of pizza popular on the South Shore. “I grew up on the Cape, and my grandfather owned a pizzeria and did that style. Brockton is where a lot of the bar-style pies originated,” Warner explains. “It’s a crispy pan pizza. The sauce is very simple, we use crushed tomatoes, and put a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, we want it to be as tomatoey as possible, a lot of bar pies are spicy but that’s not really what I do.”
According to Warner, Sady Munoz, who purchased the restaurant in 2016, did not follow the City Slicker recipe. Warner says he “tried to counsel,” Munoz, but eventually negotiated a buy-back agreement when he didn’t see a significant change. “You are sending people home with a pizza box, and if they are expecting one product and you deliver another one, you are going to anger some people. I don’t care how good your pizza is — it’s not what they expect. So we disappointed a lot of people that way, and that was really disturbing to me,”
Though City Slicker is best known for its bar pie, it has an extensive menu of comfort-food classics; meat loaf, Cuban sandwiches, and chicken parm subs are among the bestsellers. “That’s kind of my niche, I give someone something they might get in a casual sit-down restaurant, but delivered to their house. We are one notch up from the corner pizzeria. We want to separate ourselves, we are like them on steroids, kind of juiced up,” Warner says with a laugh.
The restaurant owner says he’s enjoying being back at City Slicker, even if things didn’t go exactly as planned. He says he’s rehired a lot of former employees, who are now running day-to-day operations so he can focus on the “big picture,” and of course, the reputation of their pizza.
Though he did expect to be back, Warner says after a year off, he was going a bit stir-crazy. “Truthfully, the response I’ve received from a lot of customers has let me know I did the right thing. People are happy, they are glad I’m back, and they are coming in to see me. You don’t know how much people appreciate you until you are gone sometimes.”
City Slicker Cafe, 588 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-625-0700, firstname.lastname@example.org.