Detroit-style pizza joint opens in Eastown

The Nene features mozzarella and brick cheese, smoked ham, pineapple, roasted bell peppers, red sauce and Calabrian chilies. Courtesy Quarantino's

Defying the COVID-19 pandemic, husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Joel Wabeke and Sarah Wepman opened a pizzeria in Eastown called Quarantino’s.

The pair opened the Detroit-style pizza joint at 1444 Lake Drive SE in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood on Aug. 14.

Quarantino’s is inside the former D’arts Donuts, which closed two years ago.

Wepman and Wabeke also co-own That Early Bird Café, across the street at 1445 Lake Drive SE, and The Littlebird, at 95 Monroe Center NW downtown. Their other eatery, Kingfisher Restaurant & Deli, at 1001 Lake Drive SE, closed last month.

Wabeke is Quarantino’s general manager.

Wepman told the Business Journal she and her husband devised Quarantino’s for two reasons: to make real Wabeke’s longtime dream to open a Detroit-style pizza joint, and to give the couple a sustainable cold-weather takeout business for during the pandemic, as patio service at That Early Bird and Littlebird will close when the season ends, limiting the businesses’ revenue streams.

“Joel has actually been working on Detroit-style pizza as a side project for many years. It’s been a passion of his and is a great vehicle for using local produce in a vibrant, delicious way,” Wepman said. “And as we are consistently trying to focus on takeout and delivery options, it just turned out to be the perfect time to finally make happen a pet project he’s had for a long time.”

Wepman said they closed Kingfisher due to the bad timing of the pandemic and the difficulty of operating a successful concept there, but they were able to transfer Kingfisher’s staff over to Quarantino’s.

In addition to its regular menu of specialty and build-your-own pizzas, Quarantino’s offers a menu of vegan and gluten-free pizza options, as well as a variety of salads, desserts and nonalcoholic beverages.

The restaurant also has a “provisions” menu that offers ingredients such as flour, yeast, farm-fresh eggs, sourdough starters and Sparrows Coffee by the bag.

Wepman said this fall, Quarantino’s will begin offering the family-style, prepared options that were popular at Kingfisher, as well.

She said she and Wabeke are proud their Detroit-style pizza concept has finally come to fruition.

“We’re really focusing on fresh, high-quality ingredients, and the dough is unique unto itself. It’s crispy and golden-brown around the edges, with an amazing, light, chewy interior. Joel put a lot of work into it, and we’re really excited it’s finally seeing the light of day.”

Quarantino’s is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and will soon add lunch service and Sunday hours. People can order online or by calling (616) 734-6833. In addition to takeout, catering is available, and delivery soon will be available.

The section of Lake Drive SE where Quarantino’s is located is currently under construction, but one lane remains open for traffic, as well as access to a parking lot customers can use.

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