Regional pizza extraordinaires Matt Hyland and Emily Hyland of the popular Pizza Loves Emily restaurant group have decided to shut down Violet, the year-old East Village restaurant that focused on grilled Rhode Island-style pies. The restaurant’s website now redirects to another brand in the group’s portfolio, Emmy Squared, and Violet’s Instagram account has been deactivated.
While laid-back pizza shop Emmy Squared — largely credited with popularizing thick Detroit-style pies in NYC — was billed as the brand within the Pizza Loves Emily portfolio that investors were eyeing to grow into a national chain, Violet was a more personal project for chef Matt Hyland.
But it wasn’t the runaway hit of the chef’s past restaurants. The restaurant built its menu around the grilled pizzas made famous at Italian restaurant Al Forno’s in Providence, Rhode Island, and critical reception was tepid. Eater critic Ryan Sutton found that the toppings-saturated pies at Violet often missed the mark, while New York Times critic Pete Wells praised the pizzas but saw some flaws in the pasta and dessert lineup. The restaurant, which opened its doors in January 2019, also featured pasta and seafood dishes like spaghetti with clams, and grilled shrimp with spicy butter and cilantro.
Hyland called the restaurant “a fun experience” in a statement on the closure, but said that Violet wasn’t feasible to run “in a New York that is increasing drastically in cost of goods and wages.”
“I am moving to Clinton Hill to be close to the original Emily and Emmy Squared, where I will focusing on making the current brands stronger,” said Hyland, who added that he wants to focus on family as his partner chef Simone Tong is expecting a child in August.
Hyland and co-founder and former spouse Emily Hyland struck early success with Emily, the duo’s first restaurant where crowds gathered to try hybrid New York-New Haven-style pizzas alongside the now-legendary dry aged Emily burger. Fans then flocked to Emmy Squared for Detroit-style pies and the company started to expand it into a chain, with partners Howard Greenstone and Ken Levitan. The brand now includes locations in Nashville, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Many restaurants across the city have struggled to stay in business after the pandemic shut the city down, as they have been restricted to takeout and delivery service for the past three months. The restrictions will continue likely until early July, when Mayor Bill de Blasio estimates that the city will move into the second phase of reopening and restaurants will be allowed to set up outdoor dining operations.