(Photos: Jae Thomas)

The co-founder of the oft-debated Artichoke Pizza (you either love it or you hate it) is bringing more untraditional pies to the East Village. The second location of the Detroit-style pizza concept, Lions & Tigers & Squares, soft-opened on Friday and is expected to be fully operational by the end of this week.

The new pizza place is housed in the old Nicoletta location on 2nd Ave and 10th Street. Michael White’s pizzeria closed back in December after almost seven years of service (and more than its share of bad reviews). After the bright-red corner building was shuttered and the storefront went up for lease, Artichoke Basille’s Francis Garcia jumped at the chance.

“People love pizza in the East Village,” Garcia said. “There’s tons of pizza, but everyone has their lights on, everyone’s paying the rent. It’s a strong market.” 

The strong market wasn’t the only reason for the new location. Garcia started out with the first Artichoke Pizza in the East Village, before moving across 14th Street to where it stands now. The new Lions & Tigers & Squares is situated in what is essentially Garcia’s home neighborhood.

“Of course it’s sentimental to be back in the East Village,” Garcia said.  “It’s our wheelhouse, it’s where we go every day.”

Garcia opened the first Lions & Tigers & Squares earlier this year, in Chelsea on 23rd Street. In true slice-shop fashion, the Chelsea spot is a hole-in-the-wall. The East Village pizzeria is definitely an expansion, comfortably seating 60, with additional outdoor seating expected for the warmer months. The extra space will allow for added menu options, including beer and wine.

Menu staples include the traditional Detroit pizza with toppings like sausage and onion, black olives, pepperoni and mushrooms. They’re also serving up the controversial mustard pizza, which went viral online after it was featured in a Food Insider video.

The pies are made in a deep square pan, using a one-bake process. They’re cooked with the cheese and when done, hot tomato sauce is ladled on top.

If you missed the Coney dogs at the 23rd Street shop (they were taken off the menu because the tiny site got too busy to make them efficiently), you can catch the frankfurters on the menu here. The Detroit-style hot dog is topped with chili, cheese and onions, and was heavily requested after it was taken off the menu, according to Garcia. 

Another Michigan necessity is the boogaloo sandwich, which Garcia says is similar to a sloppy joe. It’s served on toasted hero bread with barbecue sauce, American cheese and grilled onions. 

Detroit-style may just be the new big pizza trend. The square pies have been popping up in New both in New York and all over the country. Emmy Squared brought the Midwestern pies to Brooklyn in 2016, and has since opened up another restaurant in the East Village. Michigan pizza chain Jet’s took the cue and moved to NYC as well, opening their first New York location in Chelsea today.

Garcia says that Detroit-style pizza isn’t going anywhere, and is only going to get more popular. “If you call it Detroit-style pizza or New York-style pizza, at the end of the day, people love salty, greasy, hot pizza.”

Lions & Tigers & Squares, at 160 Second Ave., is open late afternoon until midnight during its soft opening. Once fully operational, the hours will be 11 a.m. until 4 a.m.