Nick Vella was a rising star of Kansas City’s pizza community: His pandemic-born Observation Pizza, with its impeccable crust and irreverent toppings, was in demand even after his untimely death in August 2020, when his team briefly tried to carry the business forward in his honor.
Vella had been a regular at Lucky Boys in the West Bottoms, where he became friends with owner Justin Norcross. Norcross had introduced pizza to the bar menu during the pandemic as a travel-friendly takeout option.
“We just started nerding out together,” Norcross says. “We would drink and talk pizza, and techniques were shared, and around May of 2020, he gave me some of his starter to work with.”
Late last summer, as demand for Lucky Boys’ ’za hit a volume exceeding what Norcross could mix by hand, he tapped Farm to Market Bread Co. to begin producing the dough for him. As restaurants resumed indoor dining, Lucky Boys introduced a bi-weekly pizza night: Tuesdays and Thursdays, they swap out their standard bar menu for a build-your-own pizza menu. Norcross retrofitted the Lucky Boys convection oven with removable baking stones, turning out impeccable pizzas in five to seven minutes. The crust has just the right balance of sour, chew and crisp, riding the line between classic Neapolitan and bar pizza.
“Because of Nick’s starter, we get really good bubbles,” Norcross says. “It’s a lively dough—not like eating wet bread.”
Natalie Torres Gallagher
Natalie Torres Gallagher is Kansas City magazine’s longtime food critic and frequent contributor.
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