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Posted on Mon, May 6, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza restaurant set to open Tuesday in Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs


Pizzas at Tony Sacco's are cooked in a 1,000-degree coal-burning oven.

Daniel Brenner |

Tony Sacco’s franchisee Keith Gulian is preparing to open his coal oven pizza restaurant in Ann Arbor this week.

The full-service restaurant is set to open at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the outlot building of the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center at 980 W. Eisenhower Pkwy. Whole Foods Market and REI anchor the center.


Tony Sacco's is opening Tuesday in the outlot building of the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center.

Daniel Brenner |

The Florida-based restaurant chain has more than a dozen locations in six states, including restaurants in Novi and Lansing. It serves coal oven-fired pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts, and Gulian said everything is prepared fresh daily. The pizza cooks in about five minutes in a 1,000-degree coal-burning oven.

“It makes the crust very light and fluffy and keeps the original flavors there,” said Tony Sacco’s operations director John Keurajian. “We use real plum tomatoes in our sauce, and nothing is frozen and nothing is bagged.”

Pizzas cost $9.95 for a small and $13.95 for a large. A personal pizza costs $5.95, and specialty pizzas range between $12 and $18.


The restaurant's interior has a full bar and room for about 100 diners.

Daniel Brenner |

A former Jimmy John’s franchisee, Gulian said he made the jump to Tony Sacco’s because it’s a high-quality product that he hopes fits the Ann Arbor demographic. He spent that past year renovating the 3,600-square-foot space next to Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the shopping center that also houses REI and Whole Foods.

The restaurant has about 100 indoor seats, a full bar, five flat-screen TVs and an outdoor patio with about 20 seats.

“It’s a higher-end pizzeria,” he said. “We want the Whole Foods demographic…we will serve seven local craft beers. We’re big on being a part of the (Ann Arbor) community.”

Gulian hired 45 employees, but said he’s still accepting applications. (Apply online) The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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



Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:51 a.m.

Whole Foods pizza is still the best.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

Be forewarned; the personal size version of the Margherita pizza does not come with basil, and they don't inform you of this fact until after it has been served. I can't believe they would even call it a Margherita pizza without the basil!!!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

any reports on why it took so long to open? The sign has been there for a while and the website originally said it was to open at the end of 2012

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

@Frank: There were some hold ups with the build out, but also, they were waiting to get their liquor license before opening.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : noon

Lots of accusation about "tree huggers" and such here today. I wonder why anybody would object to coal? "Today, acute pollution crises are rare in the developed world, but coal-burning still exerts an insidious effect on health. The worst impact is on children. Burning coal releases mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and fine particulate matter, among other nasty emissions. Mercury from power plants settles in water, where bacteria transform it to an organic form called methylmercury. It contaminates fish and bioaccumulates through the food chain, so larger predators are especially contaminated. That's bad news for lovers of swordfish and spicy tuna, especially for women who plan to have children. During pregnancy, methylmercury crosses the placenta and gets into the developing brains of fetuses. Research shows that this exposure can cause neurological and developmental deficits down the road. One pivotal study, conducted in the Faroe Islands, looked at methylmercury levels in mothers' hair samples and babies' umbilical-cord blood at birth. Seven years later, the children who had had higher levels tended to show deficits related to language, attention, and memory on a battery of neuropsychological tests. Other large studies of methylmercury exposure during gestation, conducted in New Zealand and the Seychelles, have come to similarly worrisome conclusions. Coal is not kind to children's brains."


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

That must be the problem in our public school?


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

I have lived in Washtenaw county all my life and worked for the University of Michigan for years. With this being said, Washtenaw county is in debt. I am open to any resturant opening in Washtenaw county and bringing in revenue to the county/state. I understand we want a healthy eco system but know that if we don't have revenue that means job cuts or pay cuts. Let's be open to bringing business in and if they close up shop, well they brought in Washtenaw county some revenue and maybe someone didn't have to loose there job or take a pay cut. Ultimatly I would pick healthy eco friendly resturant but at this time revenue revenue revenue!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

It's hard to tell if those are good prices or not without knowing the SIZE for each one. What is a small? What is a large? When Cottage Inn began to shrink their pizzas, and increase the prices, I stopped buying them. Hopefully this place is a better value.

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

The sizes are on the menu: A small is 12 inches and a large is 16.

Usual Suspect

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

I expect the hippie crowd to be at their door demanding an end to the use of evil coal.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

"I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant -- that plant kills people."_Mitt Romney 2004, pointing to a coal plant. Hippies!

Paul Wiener

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.

Fantastic! A news story that even tells you what the new pizza will cost! I have a feeling that cooking them in a 1000-degree oven will offer a great improvement on the usual Ann Arbor pizzas that are cooked in a 117-degree oven.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

I've eaten at the one in Lansing Township, and if it is representative of the chain, you can find better pizza at at least half a dozen places in Washtenaw County. The young professionals will love it, though, because it's new. If you go there, IMO it should be for the Bloody Marys, not the pizza.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

Hey Keith, what a nice surprise! Sounds like a good idea to me, you will do fine......and will be looking forward to stopping in soon......Good Luck


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

Yeah ordmad your right...enjoy tony sacco's.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 10:44 p.m.

Best Pizza in town is across the street at Bella Italia.....doubt the whole foods demographic would get past the decor.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Lucky we midwestern rubes get the occasional visit from those much more cultured than we are to keep us straight on *real* pizza.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

That ain't pizza. That's warm dough, sweet sauce and lousy cheese that many midwesterners call pizza.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Look forward to trying it!


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

Wait ... it's finally opening tomorrow? Didn't first report on this place almost a year ago? If it takes them this long to open, how long will it take to get a pizza?

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

@Kyle: The owner did say it's somewhat similar pizza as NeoPapalis. As for why the build out took so long, the owner just said there were a lot of hold ups. I think the liquor license was the big one, and they didn't want to open without it.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

We did indeed fjord (link: I was equally surprised when I heard that Lizzy was working on this story as build outs at locations like this usually don't take that long. As a too-frequent pizza consumer this is one I plan on trying out, it seems similar to NeoPapalis downtown where you get your pizza Subway style and it is cooked quickly which makes for a pretty good lunch alternative to the likes of subs and burritos when getting lunch on the run.

Tom Joad

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

The last thing the atmosphere needs is more coal burning. China is slated to build 800 new coal-fired power plants and already uses 4 times as much coal as the USA. Coal burning releases heavy metals, including mercury and radioactive materials. Keeping a small coal over burning all day in a restaurant will still produce a substantial amount of emissions. While most other pizza makers use natural gas, this gimmicky coal-fired oven is troublesome to say the least. One could argue that even burning wood would be more environmentally sound. Burning coal releases the accumulated carbon load from millions of years ago....I for one will not be a customer here.

Real Life

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:28 a.m.

Get over yourself. My good God, give it a break, it's only pizza.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

@Tiny - :)


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 10:23 p.m.

There are pluses and minuses to almost anything. I like to at least give new pizza joints a try and then go to the place that soots me best.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Good thing those other places use that carbon-free natural gas.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

There are millions of trees in this city that could use a hug right now - better get started.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

Okay, I've fed up. Coal fired pizza oven? What kind of gimmick is that? I'm opening a pizza joint. The oven will be nuclear (it is pronounced nuke-u-lar) powered. That's right. Uranium oven. Sterilizes as it cooks. No more worries about leaving the leftovers out overnight, or even for days. You want crisp crust? It'll be nuclear crisp. And I'll be taking apps from aspiring University of Michigan Nuclear Engineering students to help me run the oven. Anyone have any tips on zoning?

Jeff Renner

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:44 p.m.

@ordman & a slick - I don't know for sure about those ovens, but the old coal fired ovens I am familiar with had a separate fire chamber. The baking chamber had no connection. The old Chamberlain Bakery on Chamberlain St. (RIP) in Detroit was converted from coal to natural gas in the fifties.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

Kyle, Nucular never gets old. That's part of what makes it great.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:29 a.m.

Clearly you know what you are talking about. The famous New Haven Apizza restaurants in New Haven, CT have been using coal since the 20's and 30's. They are arguably the first "modern" pizza restaurants in this country. Coal = consistent high temps = better crust with fresher toppings.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

Coal over pizza is the original method brought to the states by the Italians. It's wood that's the gimmick.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:12 p.m.

Old joke alert, Nicholas!

Matt Lang

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

i wish we could get a Ginos East franchise here, very tasty Chicago deep dish.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Mangiamo makes great deep dish!!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

You should try Mangiamos in Saline. Their stuffed pizza is a very good compromise.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

Gino's is the worst deep dish in Chicago.


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

I am hoping for two things: 1. The oven's exhaust has a really good scrubber. Ever been in a town that still has coal furnaces? Nasty smelling. 2. The tomatoes are canned rather than fresh, since fresh tomatoes just don't have much flavor except at the peak of summer. Having said that, sounds great and I'll be there!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

actually the very first thing I thought of was a city in Europe that has that coal burning smell. Then I thought - why would I want any smoked flavor like that on my pizza? But I won't judge til I try it!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:28 a.m.

Really, scrubber? Have you ever used a charcoal grill? Do you have a scrubber on your grill? I really hope you are kidding.......


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:33 p.m.

oh my fine ann arbor brethren will accept this ? Coal makes global warming (oh excuse me climate change ) and smoke their food with it ? Its probably against the tree hugger bylaws here : )

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

Solar Fired Pizza


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

I sense a business opportunity. "Ann Arbor Windmill-Fired Pizza"


Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

So much for owner, Keith Gulian, commenting on "being a part of the Ann Arbor community." All of his contractors came from the Lansing and Detroit areas.

Blue Marker

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Their supplies didn't come from Ann Arbor either. My store is 10 minutes from this restaurant. I'm the only drywall yard in a 25 mile radius, I never heard a thing.

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.


Lizzy Alfs

Mon, May 6, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

It looks like Tony Sacco's is also coming to Traverse City, Hartland and Grand Rapids. There are "coming soon" announcements on the website.