Two partners behind one of New York’s most celebrated pizza restaurants are opening their new restaurant in Williamsburg this Friday, and it’s twice the size of their Bushwick hit Ops, with three-times the kitchen space for an expanded menu.
Leo, from Mike Fadem and Gavin Compton, is part takeout cafe and part 70-seat restaurant at 318 Grand Street at Havemeyer Street. The cafe portion opened in late October, with the restaurant lagging due to liquor license permitting.
For the new restaurant menu, Fadem collaborated with former Ops employee Joey Scalabrino, who’s also a partner at Leo. There’s pizza — all naturally fermented — but it’s baked in a fancy new electric oven, not a classic wood-fire one, as at Ops.
Topping choices include a San Giuseppe ($20) with tomatoes, ’nduja, onions, olives, and provolone, and a clam pie ($22) with clams, cream, garlic, chili, parsley, and pecorino. And while there’s some square pizza at Leo, as is a hit at Ops, this one’s different too, in part thanks to the non-wood oven.
Those differences are partly the point, says Fadem: “I didn’t wanna open another Ops. I really wanted [Leo] to be an obvious next thing — related, but unique.”
Another difference from Ops, which has just one oven for pizza purposes only, is Leo’s non-pizza menu. Dishes include meatballs ($14), lasagna ($12), and farinata ($14), an originally Genoan chickpea flour art — all three of those are gluten-free.
“It’s fun to figure out, what are the best things to do with pizza when you don’t wanna compete?” Fadem says.
Desserts include tiramisu ($10) and soft serve ($6), in current flavors concord grape and salted caramel, ideally swirled together. To drink, there’s a strong list of natural wine modeled after the one at Ops, with Sierra Echegaray (the Four Horseman) behind the selections. Beer and cocktails are available, too.
Leo’s cafe portion serves more pizza to-go, sourdough bread, sweet and savory baked goods, and sandwiches. Ops’ first employee Thomas Traudt runs the show at the cafe, and takes inspiration from bakeries in Copenhagen, where the team traveled and staged for research. Breakfast sandwiches include a spigarello and fennel frittata sandwich ($6) on crusty sourdough.
While the connection to renowned Ops will surely lead some customers to Leo, Fadem remembers that his first restaurant’s success didn’t happen overnight. “It felt, at least to me, that Ops grew very slowly and organically. It took quite a while for us to be busy, which was a good thing for us, to learn what we were doing,” he says. The same slow burn, he hopes, will be true at Leo.
Leo opens Friday and will be open from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.