Brian Kessler started working in pizza shops when he was 14, and after an eight-year hiatus from the business, he’s bringing a fresh take on Northern-inspired pies to Mount Pleasant with an offering that’s making folks from New Jersey to New Haven feel right at home when they dine at Iggy’s.
“It’s funny because most places will say ‘New York-style pizza’ or ‘Detroit-style pizza’ or whatever it is,” Kessler said. “I’ve had people from Jersey, from Pittsburgh, from the Bronx, from Brooklyn, from New Haven, and they’re like, ‘This is just like home,’ and that’s awesome.”
Kessler and his wife Erinn moved to Charleston in 2013 with plans to open a restaurant. Kessler had the know-how after running two successful pizzerias in the suburbs north of Atlanta, opening the first when he was just 23. But an overheated Charleston market with sky-high rent rates caused the couple to hit the pause button.
“We ended up selling both of the spots in Atlanta and just sitting tight until this past year,” said Kessler, who spent the time outside of the industry working in construction management and flipping houses with Erinn. “We found space available that was exactly what we were looking for.”
The 1220 Ben Sawyer Blvd. space was previously home to Baroni’s New York Pizza, making the transition relatively seamless ahead of Iggy’s July opening, Kessler said. You’ll find chicken wings, hoagies, baked pastas and more at Iggy’s, but pizza is the star of the medium-sized menu, featuring a mix of classic and creative topping combinations. As for the dough, it’s a mashup of the thin-crust New Jersey, soft New York and chewy, slightly charred New Haven styles.
“I just say it’s Northeastern style. I’ve basically been doing it my whole life,” Kessler said. “I pull inspiration for my dough from New Haven as well as New York. I hate to classify it, [but] most people would liken it to New York style.”
Topping combinations run the gamut. The “Proof of Pie” is a simple margherita-style pizza made with fresh mozzarella, basil and pecorino cheese, while the pineapple, ricotta, jalapeno and pepperoni-topped “Say Aloha to My Little Friend” offers a creative take on the classic Hawaiian pizza. Kessler will continue to introduce specialty pizzas to go with the daily menu, he said.
“We kind of run between both traditional toppings and some slightly off-the-cuff stuff,” said Kessler, describing his favorite pizza, “The Notorious F.I.G.,” which combines a goat and ricotta cheese base with fig preserves, soppressata, olives and fresh mozzarella. “That’s definitely one of our favorites and definitely one of our best sellers.”
After years away from his home away from home, Kessler is back to doing what he knows best in a place he loves. The industry veteran hopes to create that nostalgic feeling of grabbing a slice at a local pizza parlor for Charleston transplants who miss the pies they grew up eating.
“It’s been interesting by not labeling it how many people have been able to liken it to just like home for them.”
Iggy’s Pizza Shop is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 4-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, visit iggyspizzashop.com.