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Posted on Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Owner unveils plans for 'NeoPapalis' pizza restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs

PizzaPapalis owner Joe Sheena knows a thing or two about preparing pizzas.

But Sheena — whose family owns eight PizzaPapalis/Rio Wraps restaurants in Metro Detroit — wanted to bring something different to the market with his first Washtenaw County venture.


NeoPapalis plans to open in September on the first floor of Zaragon West.

Melanie Maxwell |

Sheena signed a lease last month for the 2,521-square-foot retail space at the under-construction Zaragon West on the corner of East William and Thompson streets.

He plans to open a quick service, Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant and bar in September.

“This will be the same care and quality (our customers) have known for the last 26 years — using some of the same toppings, such as our cheese and sauce — but it’s a completely different style,” he said.

The restaurant, called NeoPapalis, will have four base pizzas: Margherita, Marinara, Bianca and Classico.

“It’s artisan style with hand-tossed dough made from scratch every day using Italian flour,” Sheena said.

Customers can then choose from different cheeses, meats and vegetables to add to the base pizzas. He plans to offer vegan cheese and a wide array of toppings, including rosemary and curry chicken. The menu also will have build-your-own salads, sandwiches and around a dozen microbrews on tap.

“The simplicity and beauty of what we’re doing is there are a ton of different varieties you can do and there’s a lot of simplicity to it, too,” he said.

NeoPapalis’ price point will be “in line with what students are looking for.” Salads and sandwiches will be $5, and pizzas will range from $7 to $12.

With 200 students living right above his restaurant — Zaragon West is expected to open Sept. 1 — Sheena said he’s focusing on quality and convenience to lure those customers. NeoPapalis will be open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

“People can basically come in their pajamas and pick up a pizza and go back to their rooms,” he said.

He added: “We just look at ourselves as a complement to the area. Obviously, we’re right next to (The Original Cottage Inn Restaurant), which has a phenomenal product, but they have their style, and we have our style.”

NeoPapalis will have 52 seats, a bar area and an outdoor patio. Construction is expected to begin next week, with Novi-based PPC Design working on the project. Sheena said he’ll likely hire 25 to 45 part-time and full-time employees.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

another gimmic but pizza is still pizza when you get right down to it.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

No deep-dish?!?!?! with all the competition in the immediate area, why would they do this?! thanks, but we'll keep going to Pizza House. Mr. Sheena, I strongly urge you to reconsider. YOU ARE MAKING A MISTAKE.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Yeah, just what Ann Arbor doesn't need.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

Quality or convenience, pick any one. Sounds like something I would have loved to have downstairs when I was a student though. I'm sure that the U of M students have educated taste buds. Despite what I observe of them in public, after hours.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

Another vote here for: "no deep dish? , no thanks". Bummer.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

It would be great if they would make a gluten free version!

Melanie Nettle-Kahl

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Thank you so much for including vegan cheese as an option on your pizzas! Will you also offer vegan slices? I would love a place where I could grab a fresh vegan slice in A2. Currently I am only aware of one place, Whole Foods, that offers vegan slices and they aren't downtown.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

I know Silvio's on North U has a couple of different vegan pizzas on the menu, but I don't know if they regularly sell it by the slice. I imagine they'd be glad to be asked.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Awesome! To the owner: Thanks for offering vegan cheese for the growing vegan population. I was so excited when I read that, and my husband is, too! Enjoyed PizzaPapalis in Greektown as a teen. Can't wait to try this place! Good luck and best wishes.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

What NO deep dish...are you kidding me!!! No deep thanks!!!


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

More Pizza!


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Are you telling me there's no Pizzapapalis deep dish here? Proof that my luck is the worst int he world; been hoping and waiting and hoping and waiting for a Pizzapapalis to come here, and when they finally do, they leave the deep dish in Detroit. You gotta be kidding me. Curse you Zeus.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

I think the locals at Anthony's Gourmet Pizza make a pretty fine deep dish. Maybe it will soothe your disappointment.

Ron Granger

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

The question of whether we need another pizza joint is like asking whether you need to eat pizza, which is unhealthy. They're both silly questions. A lot of pizza these days is garbage. There is a lot of pressure to produce a $5 pie to compete with the big chains. A great pizza should be able to stand on the crust, sauce and cheese alone. Most cannot. There's always room for more pizza, especially great slices. As for NYPD, I get slices there but they aren't that good. I think they emphasize too many toppings.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

tdw- Let it go. If people were responding to your comment, they would have hit "respond" and it would have fallen under your commentary.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

Ron....If you are referring to my comment the replies explain it

Ron Granger

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Pizza Pi at Mark's Carts is doing wood fired pizza downtown.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

It seems annoying that they're opening up right next to cottage inn. I was interested because I've liked PizzaPapalis, but I might have to avoid it. We'll continue to have additional pizza places around, but right next to our local place??


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Might be another pizza joint but he is brings a few jobs to the area, might not be alot but its better than nothing.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

thank you ranger007! it IS better than nothing. Good news is good news.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

ranger007...hence my comment


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

The later hours definitely cater to the students. Seems that they plan on competing with NYPD rather than Cottage Inn.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

Ok let me be the first to say it " do we really need another pizza..." ( don't care just wanted to be first )

Thomas Jones

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Agree.... isn't Cottage Inn right next to that place?

Jay Thomas

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

At least you didn't say, "Do we really need another Asian restaurant?" I'll do that.


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

bedrog.....I'm being snarky.I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant , gas station or any other service business being opened w/o that comment being made


Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

tdw...occasionally one breaks the mold...try the 'polpette' pizza at mani of the finest food items ever.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Jul 4, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

Can I please be the second?