Atlanta Orders In: Phew’s Pies puts lemon pepper wings on pizza

Here are two takeout pizzas from Phew’s Pies: the oxtail-ricotta and the veggie. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Here are two takeout pizzas from Phew’s Pies: the oxtail-ricotta and the veggie. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

In the back of his mind, Matthew Foster always wanted to make pizza for a living.

For years, he’s been obsessed with “The Pizza Show,” on which pizzaiolo Frank Pinello travels the world on a quest for great pie stories. While a server at Ammazza, a Neapolitan-style pizza parlor in the Old Fourth Ward, Foster spent so much time gazing into the kitchen that he eventually talked his way in.

“Pizza has always been my favorite food,” said the Atlanta native, who has an extensive production resume in the entertainment industry. “I always said, once I retired from whatever movie gig I had, making a bunch of money, I would retire and open up a pizzeria. I don’t care if it’s prosperous. I just like pizza that much. I can go in there and eat pizza for free as much as I want.”

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Since creating his original lemon pepper wet pizza last year, Matthew Foster’s ghost pizza kitchen, Phew’s Pies, really has taken off. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Since creating his original lemon pepper wet pizza last year, Matthew Foster’s ghost pizza kitchen, Phew’s Pies, really has taken off. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Last year, when the pandemic brought his gig with Nick Cannon’s “Wild ’N Out” tour to a halt, Foster found himself with time on his hands. Egged on by friends, he decided to try his hand at pizza.

Watching Pinello, he observed that many pizza capitals, from Naples to New York, have their own style. His challenge was to invent a pie that captures Atlanta, which he thinks is more famous for Southern comfort food and barbecue than pizza.

It didn’t take him long to identify his signature flavor profile: lemon pepper.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news
Atlanta native Matthew Foster wanted to create a pizza that pays tribute to local culture. His solution was to add lemon-pepper sauce and a couple of wet, lemon-pepper wing flats to a pizza. Courtesy of Drew Amandolia
Atlanta native Matthew Foster wanted to create a pizza that pays tribute to local culture. His solution was to add lemon-pepper sauce and a couple of wet, lemon-pepper wing flats to a pizza. Courtesy of Drew Amandolia

Credit: Drew Amandolia

Credit: Drew Amandolia

“Everybody loves lemon-pepper wings,” said Foster, 31, a Grady High School graduate who has studied at Pepperdine University, Morehouse College and Georgia State University. With the iconic seasoning as his muse, Foster created his lemon pepper wet pie, a pizza that packs a zing and is adorned with two flats and a couple of lemon wedges.

Doing business as Phew’s Pies, a reference to his nickname, Foster first advertised on social media. Response was slow, but when rap star Killer Mike retweeted a video of the lemon-pepper pie in June, Foster was deluged. Overnight, his hobby became a business, which now encompasses a virtual pizzeria five nights a week and a Tuesday pop-up at Boggs Social & Supply.

Matthew Foster is the owner of Phew’s Pies, a ghost kitchen that pops up around town and takes orders online Tuesdays-Saturdays. Courtesy of Drew Amandolia
Matthew Foster is the owner of Phew’s Pies, a ghost kitchen that pops up around town and takes orders online Tuesdays-Saturdays. Courtesy of Drew Amandolia

Credit: Drew Amandolia

Credit: Drew Amandolia

Foster calls his style metropolitan, a riff on the Neapolitan influence and his urban roots. “The process for the dough and the sauce-making is Neapolitan,” he said. (He uses double zero flour and San Marzano tomatoes.) “However, I am not Italian. Not everything I do is going to be traditionally Italian. I’m influenced by a more inner-city urban feel.”

Since getting serious about his craft, Foster has had to upgrade his equipment. Where he once baked pies out of his home kitchen, he now owns a pair of Gozney Roccboxes, portable ovens that can bake a pie in minutes.

Though he still makes pizzas for pickup at his southwest Atlanta home, he keeps the ovens outside. (He jokes that he has PTSD from last summer’s heat.) He said his neighbors, though concerned at first about parking and traffic, have taken a liking to the aroma of cheese, tomato and basil wafting from his backyard.

As for the menu, he has expanded his repertoire to include oxtail-ricotta, hot honey and pesto versions, along with classics, like sausage and pepperoni.

When I tried his signature lemon-pepper pizza, one thing that impressed me was his wonderfully seasoned, lightly breaded, super-tender wings. I asked if they were baked. Turns out, they’re air-fried.

Would he ever consider selling the wings separately? “People ask every single time!” Foster said, adding that a typical exchange goes like this: “Your pizza is fine. I know you are going to do great with it, but if that don’t work, brother, you can sell wings! And, can I please get some more?”

Eventually, Foster expects to offer wings, but there will be rules.

You’ll have to buy a lemon-pepper pie first, then add chicken. Otherwise, you’d miss the point. “I’m a pizza man. I’m stoked that I hit it with this wing,” he said. “But, first, I want to get better at what I’m already good at.”

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

Elijah Lopez brings an order of Phew’s Pies out to a waiting customer. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Elijah Lopez brings an order of Phew’s Pies out to a waiting customer. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

PHEW’S PIES

Menu: pizza

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: lemon pepper wet, oxtail-ricotta and veggie pies. The lemon pepper was a tad salty, but, man, those wings. The crusts can be a little bland and a little blackened, but this is a very promising upstart pizza maker with a unique concept.

Service options: takeout only; order online or via text for pickup

Outdoor dining: no

Mask policy: staff wears masks and prefers that customers do, too

Address, phone: 873 Victoria Place SW, Atlanta; 404-333-2101

Hours: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

Website: phewpies.com

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