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Down North Pizza opens with Detroit-style pies, wings, and a mission

The North Philadelphia shop's mission includes employing formerly incarcerated people.

The square, Detroit-style pizza at Down North Pizza.
The square, Detroit-style pizza at Down North Pizza.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

After three months of tests, Down North Pizza, the North Philadelphia shop created to provide career opportunities and fair wages for formerly incarcerated people, has set its opening for Friday, March 19, at 2804 W. Lehigh Ave.

Opening Down North has been a longtime mission for Kurt Evans, known for his End Mass Incarceration series of pop-up dinners held at Philadelphia restaurants and for his work with the “Everybody Eats” campaign. He is partnered with childhood friend Muhammad Abdul-Hadid. The chef is Michael Carter. The goal is to erase the employment barriers and to reduce recidivism in Black communities.

Evans got support from such mentors as Robert and Ben Bynum (Warmdaddy’s, South, Relish), and Cristina Martínez and Ben Miller (South Philly Barbacoa).

The square, Detroit-style pizza ($18-$25), named in honor of Philly rappers, has received praise. The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan recently shouted out a few, including the “No Betta Love” (a classic cheese pie with “red racing stripes” of the sweet-and-spicy marinara known as Norf sauce.

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There’s “Big Head” with chicken breast, pepperoncini, and red onions. LaBan’s favorite, “Ima Boss,” is a white pie with turkey sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and what Evans calls Bodega sauce, “a sweet-tangy drizzle of reduced Goya Malta and tamarind inspired by the corner grocery.”

The opening menu also includes 10-piece wings ($11.99) in eight different sauces, four kinds of fries, five different milkshakes (including a bean-pie flavor), and five lemonades.

Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. It will be open for pickup or delivery via Black & Mobile.