Bear's Smokehouse Owner To Open Hartford Pizzeria

Burnt-end pies will soon be a reality in Hartford, as Jamie McDonald, owner of Bear’s Smokehouse, has announced plans to move into pizza.

The as-yet-to-be-named pizzeria will occupy the space of his current Bear’s outpost at 89 Arch St., as the barbecue restaurant moves to its new, larger space on Front Street in the next few weeks. McDonald plans to move Arch Street’s two smokers out of the building, deploying them to his other restaurants, and to install a Marra Forni wood-fired pizza oven in their place.

McDonald said the idea came to him about three months ago, saying the neighborhood could use a pizza option.

“There’s nowhere that’s pretty much only going to do pizza,” he said of the area eateries.

The new pizzeria will offer 12-inch pies, he said, priced at $10 to $12 for more traditional pizzas and $14 to $15 for ones with higher-end ingredients. “It’s the same philosophy as Bear’s, everything made in-house, sourcing as many local ingredients as possible, some traditional but some cool stuff, playing around with cool topping combinations,” he said. “We’ll definitely take advantage of the fact that we already have good meat available.”

While his new space will have a few appetizers and side dishes, he said, “we have no plans to be a full-blown Italian restaurant menu.”

McDonald hopes to open the pizza concept by Nov. 1, with seating for about 80 guests and a full bar, featuring craft cocktails. Bear's current director of beverage services, Justin Morales, will be named managing partner of the restaurant.

The pizzeria will also offer to-go orders.

“We’re just focusing on, like we do now with barbecue, just keeping it relatively simple but executing it well,” McDonald said.

The pizzeria is the latest in a series of projects for McDonald, who owns and operates two other Bear's Smokehouse locations in Windsor and South Windsor. His long-awaited Bear’s on Front Street is slated to open in the next three weeks, a 6,800-square foot space with full bar, seating for 190 in the main dining room and a private dining room that will accommodate 12 guests, he said. He described the setup as a hybrid between fast-casual and full-service.

McDonald and business partner Tyler Anderson, chef-owner of Millwright’s in Simsbury, are in the process of opening Cook & The Bear in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, with cuisine they call “craft barbecue.” Cook & The Bear has a projected November opening.

The two are also partners in a project at Hartford’s Union Station, where they will open the Chango Rosa Taco Shop, taking over vacated kiosks at the venue. They have been previewing some of the taco creations at recent restaurant pop-up events, presenting twists on traditional fillings, including barbecue meats. Chango Rosa is expected to open by the end of October.

“We’re keeping it simple,” McDonald said. The space will offer a full bar with seating for about 60 in Union Station's main hall.

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