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Wig and Pen Pizza comes to North Liberty

When tomatoes fly
Co-owner Chris Worrell cuts a Flying Tomato pizza at the brand new Wig and Pen located at 201 Hwy 965 NE in North Liberty. Worrell hopes to expand to delivery and lunch hours soon. (photo by Cale Stelken)

NORTH LIBERTY– When it comes to the best pizza the Iowa City area has to offer, one brand in particular is a slice above the rest. Wig and Pen Pizza has been a regional staple for many years with its hallmark approach to Italian-inspired cuisine. And now, thanks to a newly opened location, that favorite slice of pizza is just a few blocks away for residents of North Liberty.
Located at 201 Hwy 965 NE, the new offshoot of the popular pizza pub opened Dec. 4, marking Wig and Pen’s fourth location. In its early phase, the restaurant currently offers carryout with delivery service to be added once more employees are hired.
Dating back to the 1990s, the brand first made its mark with the Wig and Pen Pizza Pub, at 363 N. 1st Ave in Coralville. It’s popularity branched out to Wig and Pen East, at 1220 Highway 6 West in Iowa City, as well as a location at 2005 S Ankeny Blvd in Ankeny.
Wig and Pen eventually developed a reputation as the king of Chicago-style pizza in the area, making it a go-to destination for pizza loving out-of-towners, including skeptical Chicago natives looking to put to the test Iowa’s popular deep-dish effort.
For those uninitiated, Wig and Pen offers thin crust, Chicago-style and its signature Flying Tomato, a pan-style pizza loaded with mozzarella, topped with tomato slices, and layered on a thick cracker crust. The chain,according to its website, was awarded best pizza in Iowa by Zagat.com and ThrillList.com, also features signature pastas and appetizers.
While the new North Liberty location features a more condensed menu, locals will be happy to know they can enjoy all the signature pizzas, pastas and appetizers which made the restaurant so successful, and the new branch sticks to its traditional recipes.
“The Pub is such an Iowa City destination and has been for so many years that we don’t want to take anything away from that,” said co-owner Chris Worrell. “But we know that the product is such an Iowa City brand that we wanted to branch out a little bit and get it out here as well.”
While rolling out dough and checking pizzas in his new Roto-Flex oven, a rotational style oven unique to this location, Worrell made clear his passion for pizza, describing his culinary background and international pizza trade shows.
His new venture came about from discussions with Chris Querrey, co-owner of the original Wig and Pen Pizza Pub, who partnered with Worrell to bring the name to North Liberty.
“We had talked about it for a long time. I grew up in Iowa City, left for a number of years and came back to be the executive chef of 30hop, and obviously love that business and that restaurant group as well,” Worrell explained. “But this was just a chance for me to do some ownership,”
Upon leaving Iowa, Worrell, who’s worked in restaurants since adolescence, served in the Military Police Corps in the 2000s, but his love for the kitchen persisted. He lived in Colorado and Arizona, where he attended culinary school, before coming back to the Midwest to take a lead role at the new Coralville establishment.
The North Liberty Wig and Pen is current open from 3-9 p.m., which Worrell said will likely extend to 10 p.m. with the expansion of delivery. The restaurant stays open to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
In addition to carryout, the new pizzeria welcomes the opportunity to cater events and plans to expand to lunches down the road.
“North of Oakdale (Boulevard) and the majority of North Liberty will be our delivery radius,” he confirmed, citing his eagerness to enlist enough staff to begin delivery service. Worrell said he’s happy to be back in his native Midwest for its community and family oriented nature.
“I loved growing up here, and I don’t think there’s any place better,” he said.
The chef is eager for his new operation to establish a foothold in North Liberty and has been satisfied with the response thus far.
“It’s a great town. We’ve had great business so far,” he affirmed. “People have been patient with us while we train and get better, so we’re very happy to be here.”