You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza restaurant to open on Ann Arbor's south side

By Lizzy Alfs

A franchisee for the Florida-based Tony Sacco’s restaurant signed a deal last week to bring its coal oven pizza to Ann Arbor.

Franchise owner Keith Gulian signed a lease for a space in the outlot building next to Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center in Ann Arbor. Located on West Eisenhower Parkway, the center is anchored by a Whole Foods Market and REI.


A Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza restaurant plans to open in the same building as Potbelly Sandwich Shop on West Eisenhower Parkway.

Lizzy Alfs |

The Tony Sacco’s menu consists of coal oven-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts. It also carries beer and wine.

According to the website: “Everything we serve is prepared fresh daily. We have no freezers, fryers, grills or microwave ovens. Everything we make is made fresh to order and baked in our coal oven.”

The restaurant currently has 10 locations in six states. There are two other locations in Michigan: a newly opened one in Lansing and one in Novi.

George Kurajian, the franchise’s co-founder and also a University of Michigan graduate, said the restaurant has plans to expand, with five more locations set to open by the end of the year.

Ann Arbor, he said, has the right demographic for a restaurant that uses fresh ingredients and focuses on quality food.

“We originally were going to put it in downtown Ann Arbor, but with parking being such an issue in downtown, we decided to locate out by the mall there,” Kurajian said. “A lot of our customers that are health conscious and like good quality also shop at Whole Foods. It’s the same type of clientele.”

Gulian added: “I love the area. It’s a high traffic area and I love Whole Foods, REI, and I’m a Potbelly fan.”

He hopes to open the restaurant in four to five months pending liquor license approval.

With Tony Sacco’s and Potbelly now located in the shopping center’s outlot building, Tom Goldberg, an owner of Cranbrook Village, said it likely has room for two additional tenants.

“There’s positive activity in the market. We’re working on other tenants for the building and we want to be careful in selecting them,” he said. “There’s no shortage of restaurants in our community, but I think the (Tony Sacco’s) guys are hard working, and it will be well received.”

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


Dean Dodge

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

WHEN will it open?


Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

well since you cant smoke inside anymore you can eat the pizza and breathe the air around the exhaust fans to get your carcinogens .Isnt America great?

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Like driving an electric car. How clean is that, unless they make you suck the exhaust at the coal fired electric plant, or sit on the nuclear waste piles, or grind up the battery waste and feed it to you.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Oh, Goody. another pizza joint, and a CHAIN at that. just what we need. let's run this one up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes...


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Chain food franchises go back to the 1950s with Chicken Delight. It's the American Way.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

The comments section is never more amusing than when its denizens don't get a joke. OK, it was a pretty lame joke (most of mine are), but still. For the record: yes, I know that some of the most highly regarded pizzas in the country come out of coal ovens. I just think it's an odd thing to hang your reputation on, because many (most?) people associate coal with coal mining, soot, pollution, black lung, and any number of other unpleasant things. But hey! We're makin' pizza! Um, yeah. It may be the best pizza in the world, but that coal association will still turn a lot of people off, even if it's for completely ridiculous reasons.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:36 p.m. many of YOUR reasons would people consider ridiculous?

Ron Granger

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

The coal is just a gimmick. It isn't about flavor. A gas stove gets more than hot enough. A wood fired oven can add great flavor to a pizza. But not coal.

Hot Sam

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Ron you need to visit New'll find the "gimmick" in your taste buds :-)


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

would you rather have empty retail space or a pizza place? that spot has been empty for quite a while, so its nice to finally have something there. It has to be an upgrade from greasy Papa Romanos, and it seems to cater to the Whole Foods crowd. Plus they plan to serve alcohol! I cant believe anyone would complain about this.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Do we really need another pizza joint?

Jimmy McNulty

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Another coal-fired pizza plant. When will folks realize that nuclear powered pizza is far more efficient, clean, and green than coal?


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:19 a.m.

another pizza joint.that's something Ann Arbor really needed-------------------NOT


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

No problem, a few less folks will reduce the crowds. I like elbow room.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.


Urban Sombrero

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

I don't know a whole lot about coal, other than the time I spent in London (where they still use a lot of coal power), and spent the week blowing black soot out of my nose..... Still, this sounds incredibly interesting. I'm going to give it a try. I'm a fat girl. And, as such, I'm always up to trying new food.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

this place is the real deal, I've eaten at the one in Novi a couple of times and I can vouch that its top notch. I hope this one has the same lunch buffett.

Seasoned Cit

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

CAn we buy Carbon Offsets with the Pizza to make up for the coal use.....but then again we'll be helping the employment rate in WV . What would Al Gore say???

Hot Sam

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

For all you coal jokers out there... The best thin pizzas in America... at Peppe's and Salli's in New Haven are both cooked in coal's about a higher heat.... You will like this's a welcome addition...

Ron Granger

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

So gas can't be hot enough? The same gas used to forge aluminum and other metals. Right.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:24 a.m.

You like coal so much put a coal fire stove in your house.It's just another gimmick.

Jim H

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Yum. Great pizza! Started years ago as Tony's Pizza in Monroe, MI. This is improved, even from Tony's.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

It's just another chain. A2 Pizza Pi at Mark's carts is local, and their oven is wood fired.

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Absolutely! one thing that we DO NOT need is another chain. give me Mark's carts over this junk any day. buy local or bye-bye local, yeah we've all heard this one but it happens to be true.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

I still miss Unos.

John Hritz

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:43 p.m.

I love coal-fired pizza, so will be interested in whether it reminds me of the places in Pennsylvania I used to go. I will say gently that it seems weird to have three sub places (Potbelly and DiBella's) within rock throwing distance of each other. Hopefully they'll be able to differentiate themselves. I think DiBella's meatball sub is the benchmark in Ann Arbor, BTW. It's bigger than it looks. You have been warned.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

All these nay-sayers clearly don't understand what coal oven pizzas are, and that it tastes diffeent (way better) than the standard slop-on-cardboard stuff we (mostly) have here in Ann Arbor -- just try John's on Bleeker Street in Ann Arbor and you will never go back to our awful midwest pizza again.... Think gourmet pizza at reasonable prices, not cheap delivery pizza. BIG difference for people who know their pizza....


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

just try John's on Bleeker Street in Ann Arbor == should read in New York, not NYC -- no way to go back and edit these....


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

The pizza in this town is sub-standard to just about par (think Mani), but any true pizza aficionado will tell you that some of the very best pizza in this country is made in coal ovens. Think Pepe's and Sally's in New Haven or John's (for starters) in New York City. Hopefully these folks learn their ovens and get it right so this town can claim world class pizza as well. (PS - there's no soot in coal over pizza or anything else one makes in a coal oven and, thankfully, this ages old king of pizza prep methods is making a comeback: ).

Hot Sam

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Ordmad, You can lead a horse to water....:-)


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Get yourself to Anthony's this weekend


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Worth a try...keep an open mind.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

Its great to see business moving into Ann Arbor!


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

@ TDW and Craig, I've retained my jocularity over the years and deeply appreciate that both you have done the same.

Middle America

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

You saw someone's underwear become knotted?


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

By all the thumbs down a lot of people get their underwear in knots when you can predict what they're gonna say ( I've seen it more than once before )


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Boring. I'll stick to Silvio's and Mani.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Coal? I hope it is just a gimmick. Coal is a dirty fuel source, sometimes containing mercury. It isn't so much that Ann Arborites are tree huggers, it is more a question of common sense. Who wants their pizza cooked with a fuel source that has so many unknown constituents, and some of them carcinogenic?


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

I for one am excited to see more reasonably priced dining options in the area! Welcome to Ann Arbor!

Matt Kaz

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

Will this be like Tony Packos of Toledo, and there will be pizza crust signed by famous people on the walls????


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Sadly, because this is Ann Arbor, people will be outside protesting the use of coal to heat the oven,and insist that the business change to Tony Sacco's Solar-powered Organic Environmentally Sustainable Pizza. They will also protest the lack of a dedicated bicycle parking lot.

Top Cat

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

If King Coal can light our homes and power our industries, it can sure make our pizza!


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Does President Obama know about this?


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

You guys are TOO funny! I make a little bon mot about President Obama and coal and you guys have a nervy. If this keeps up, I may cancel my cable. This is much more entertaining.

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Flip flopping? But I thought it was called "evolving" now.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

I note that folks vote "down" the growth in job creation! too funny. ideology trumps fact every time! Romney also said this is no time to radically cut government spending, after railing against government spending for months! Can't wait to see our GOP faithful voting for a flip flopping northern liberal that mandated insurance. good stuff.

Ed Kimball

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

@Sparty - no, Gitmo is still open, because virtually none of our NIMBY representatives or senators of either party would allow the current prisoners to be moved to the US.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:15 a.m.

I don't think Saccos is planning on opening a pizza restaurant in Cuba, so the status of Gitmo is not really relevant is it? There's no link to employment on this topic at all Unusual Suspect, as there was in the prior posts.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Sparty - Gitmo closed yet?


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

I would doubt it. I don't think any of his advisors do either.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

Oh, and don't forget that Romney AMENDED his latest budget plan, saying that it would now take 8-10 years (two Presidential terms) for him to get the unemployment numbers back down to 5-6% unemployment levels, considered full employment. Of course, Obama should have been able to accomplish this within 3 years. ROFL. What a hypocrite, but I'm sure it's just the first time he will AMEND his budget plan between now and the election. LoL.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

Yes, another great new set of jobs to add to Obama's 27 straight months of job growth and his 4.3 million new jobs created (compared to the nine million jobs lost in the last two years of Bush Administration). I'm sure the President would love to hear about it. His local offices are nearby.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

They know something Papa Romano's doesn't?


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Papa Romano's was awful pizza


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Sheesh! No soot on the food...What he's trying to say is: the pizza ovens are going to be very, very hot - and hot oven means Great crust, and Great crust usually means Great 'za. I think it will be a nice addition to that side of town (and fairly close to our house...hehehe!) I like the no-frozen/no prepackaged'd think it would be more common, but alas, it's not! Fresh food is a win every time (unless you have bad recipes and/or don't care about cooking...then there's no helping you).


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Um, they use coal to heat the oven, usually putting it in the combustion chamber BELOW where they cook the pizza. Coal provides about 13,000 BTUs of heat per pound, while wood provides about 6,500 BTUs per pound. Coal fired ovens hold temp around 900 degrees, and a pizza cooks in a few minutes.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

Woah. Check out the brain on smacks!


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Coal oven? Extra soot on my pizza, please.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

The EPA would prefer a wind turbine pizza oven restaurant.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

Coal? Gonna be some smelly food. Zug Island West


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

Ha, I actually get that! Father in-law works on the island. The interior of his car is so distinct with that smell, no cabin air filter in the world could make a difference. I've guessed where other people work based on the smell of their cars as a result. Very distinct smell, but for the record, Zug Island doesn't process coal (at least the Steel portion of the island. Iron ore and coke. That's why you see the yellow flame on the stacks.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Do we really need another ( fill in the blank ) ?


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 7:05 a.m.

Jay, if that was the case, restaurant expansion would have stopped in its tracks. Instead new McDonalds, Taco Bells, Fridays,Red Lobster, various Coneys, independents, etc. all would never open. Your comment is so ridiculous its laughable - new restaurants are opening daily, helping the economy, helping their newly hired employees, and satisfying customers. Get educated.


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 5:19 a.m.

@Sparty, once again, a new restaurant does nothing to help the economy. It just takes money away from other existing restaurants! Learn something about Economics!

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.



Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.


Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

not enough people with a sense of humor around here anymore tdw.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

I was just being snarky..It seems anytime there's a new business opens that comment is always made.I BTW think anytime a new business opens it's a good thing.I haven't looked at the other comments but I expect there will be comments on wages,insurance etc...


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Those employed there, with new jobs, paying taxes, purchasing local goods and services all around Ann Arbor, along with the business taxes and expenses being paid all seem to suggest there are lots of people who probably think it's a good thing. OMG.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.