From ghost kitchen to pop-up to brick-and-mortar, Anthony Gilbert has finally fulfilled a dream of his dearly departed grandmother: He’s about to be a proud restaurant owner.
Specializing in Detroit-style pies, classic Italian dishes and Filipino fusion cuisine, Melt Pizza Company will hold its grand opening on February 22 in Stillwater, Minnesota, according to the pizzeria’s Facebook page.
Gilbert’s grandmother, who immigrated to the U.S. from The Philippines, recognized his culinary gift early on and always envisioned him as a restaurateur. “I never really followed that dream, and she unfortunately passed away three weeks into COVID,” he told PressPubs.com. “I think it was at that moment in time where I kind of fell in love with this, fell in love with the idea that maybe I should be doing something different with my career, with my path, that I chose to do this.”
Prior to that, Gilbert had been working as an architectural and wedding photographer. But the pandemic cost him a lot of work for several months in 2020. Meanwhile, stuck at home, he took to the kitchen.
He already had some restaurant experience as a cook at The Nova Bar and Restaurant in Hudson, Wisconsin. “I always kept cooking at home, but I started cooking more, just all day long,” he said in the PressPubs interview. “Pizza is something that I had never actually done—just because you need time to do it right, and I never had a bunch of free time. So now I had all this free time, [and] I started playing around with it, dabbling with it.” Before long, he had become “enthralled in figuring out how to make it work.”
Encouraged by the positive feedback he was getting about his Detroit-style pizzas, he started Melt Pizza Company as a ghost kitchen at Pedro’s del Este, a cocktail lounge in Hudson, in March 2021. Before long, he was running pop-up residencies in Hudson and the Twin Cities area.
In his final pop-up at Nova Bar, Gilbert collaborated with Private Sector Media to create a memorable item called the Smashburger Pizza. It features ground beef, caramelized onions, American cheese, a housemade secret sauce and homemade pickles.
That was a limited-edition pizza, but another favorite from his pop-up days, the Freak-A-Leek, appears on Melt Pizza Company’s menu. It’s a square pie topped with bacon, leeks, a garlic cream and pecorino cheese. Also on the menu: The Ronny, a red-sauce pie boasting pepperoni, jalapenos and hot honey, and the Funkytown, made with a garlic confit cream, sausage, spinach, onions, mushrooms and pecorino.
Reflecting his Filipino heritage, the menu also includes appetizers like lumpias—a Filipino spring roll stuffed with pork, veggies, herbs and garlic balsamic vinegar—and adobo chicken wings highlighted by a sweet soy vinegar glaze.
“It’ll be nice that people will be able to come get the pizza any day of the week, as opposed to…having to follow us around to find us,” Gilbert told PressPubs.com.