The sort-of secret: Mac’s Pizza, a Saturday-only pizza pop-up in Wallace Emerson
You may have heard of it if: You follow food stylist, baker and Just A Dash producer Michelle Rabin on Instagram
But you probably haven’t tried it because: Right now he only makes 10 pies a week—and when they’re gone, they’re gone
Pizza is a deeply personal thing. You may like your pies with a thick, focaccia-like crust, tons of oozy cheese and heavy on the toppings; or, your tastes may skew more towards flat, floppy, Neapolitan-style pies, with blistered bubbles of dough, a thin layer of San Marzano sauce, and just a few dollops of fior di latte. If the New York pie is your style, Mac’s Pizza, a new pop-up in Wallace Emerson, is your place—but supplies are extremely limited. “We sell out every week,” says Josh McIlwaine, the eponymous Mac. “But I don’t know how much of an accomplishment that is, when I’m only making 10 pizzas.”
McIlwaine cut his teeth as a line cook, but he hasn’t worked in the restaurant industry full-time for almost a decade (he’s an account manager by day). But at the start of the pandemic, he found himself with a bit more time on his hands, and started applying for work at pizzerias around the city. “I was messing around with making dough at home, but I wanted to learn a bit more about the pizza business,” he says. He spent three months working at North of Brooklyn last summer, and was able to source a lot of his equipment from the restaurant, who gave him gear they were no longer using.
By late December, McIlwaine was ready to go public. He sells his 10 pies a week in the Wallace-Emerson neighbourhood, via an online ordering system. Preorders open mid-week, and pizzas are available for pickup every Saturday. Mac’s Pizzas come in five varieties—classics margherita, cheese, and pepperoni, plus a spicy bacon pie make with smoked cheddar, jalapeños and onion, and a white pie topped with mushrooms and drizzled with honey—and McIlwaine makes his sauce with cult favourite Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. Each pie is accompanied by a side of roasted garlic dipping sauce—entirely inauthentic, sure, but completely delicious.
McIlwaine works one pizza at a time, so pickups are scheduled in 30-minute slots. He has a second-hand pizza delivery bag—one of the key items donated to him by North of Brooklyn—that he uses to keep pies warm in between pickups.
At first, McIlwaine was selling to mostly friends and co-workers, but business boomed after Michelle Rabin, the Mom Jeans cookie-maker and producer of Matty Matheson’s online series Just a Dash, posted a photo of a Mac’s pie on her Instagram feed. “It basically doubled interest overnight,” McIlwaine says. And it made it possible for him to scale up: in a few weeks, Mac’s will move from a single convection oven to an honest-to-goodness pizza oven at Century Park Tavern, where it will operate as a pop-up. He hopes to double the amount of pies he sells per week, at least. “I’d like to have my own space eventually,” McIlwaine says. “It’s crazy what you can get started through Instagram.”