A rectangular pie isn’t the only new thing Lefty’s Place has brought to downtown.
The food scene in Morgantown is ever-evolving. We’ve got pho, Thai, and a plethora of burger and barbeque joints. But what do you do when you’re looking for something simple, something classic, a go-to? To most, the answer is obvious: pizza. Everyone has their preferred place to snag a slice of ’za, but any change is welcome change. Enter Lefty’s Place.
Located on Walnut Street, nestled beside the Blue Moose café and sporting a comfortable, clean, and friendly atmosphere, is a different type of pizza place. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a “pizza place,” because it is much more than that. Lefty’s, owned primarily by the Maryland native Amel Morris—a.k.a. “The Pizza Guy”—is Morgantown’s only Detroit-style pizza joint. Getting its name from a mashup of all the owner’s names but Morris’s, Lefty’s is changing the Morgantown pizza scene.
It’s not the name that makes the place, Morris says, but “your food, your service, your atmosphere, and what you have on tap that makes the place.”
Since opening last December, Lefty’s has made a name for itself as the place for indulgent, square, cheesy goodness topped with parallel lines of homemade sauce, an assortment of fresh and delicious toppings, and a mouthwatering crust that tastes and crunches like it was baked to perfection.
Though he’s not from Detroit, Morris knows the ins and outs of Detroit-style pizza. Several things make a pizza Detroit-style, according to him. “It has to be made in one of those,” he says, gesturing to a stack of rectangular trays, “that was used on the auto-assembly line in Detroit.” Known for its non-standard shape, Detroit-style pizza is baked in square trays that held small parts in the factories. Legend has it that factory workers used to take these industrial trays home with them to use for baking.
“The pepperoni goes under the cheese,” Morris specifies, “the sauce goes on top, and the cheese goes all the way to the edge to caramelize.”
And boy does it ever caramelize.
While pizza is Lefty’s main area of expertise, its wings don’t trail far behind—which was unexpected to Morris and crew. “I was surprised how well our wings took off,” says Morris. “They’re a big seller for us. We make our own sauces; our own ranch and bleu cheese.” Which was music to my homemade-snob ears.
Made from real, fresh chicken, Lefty’s wings have soared over their competitors. On Wednesdays, they offer a special: Buy one draft beer, get any wings for seventy-five cents. That’s right, I said draft beer. They also have bottled beer, wine, and something they call the Frosé.
Concocted by Morris’s fiancé, Tricia Kinnie, the Frosé is a frozen wine cocktail. Serving alcohol in a pizza place was foreign to me, but according to Morris it is something he was introduced to while growing up.
Lefty’s keeps the menu short to ensure quality over quantity, but it’s packed with tempting signature items. Along with pizza and wings, it offers the Burboli, a heavenly combination of stromboli and a burrito with a range of ingredients. There are also mozzarella logs—not sticks, logs—as well as salads topped with homemade dressings and deep fried pizza dough bites with sweet toppings served as dessert.
Being the hardworking, hungry journalist that I am, I had to try some food. After skimming the menu and almost ordering multiple pies, I settled on the mozzarella logs and a pizza called The Nucky, named after one of Morris’s favorite TV characters—Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi on the show Boardwalk Empire.
The Nucky is smothered in cheese, chunks of Italian sausage, diced red onion, rings of cherry peppers, garlic, and pizza sauce so tasty you’ll crave it for days after. Before this pizza even landed on my table, I could feel the spicy aromas starting to tickle my nostrils. After a few bites of pure joy, my forehead started to perspire and I could feel my senses heightening—exactly the result I was looking for.
Whether you’re on the hunt for Detroit-style pizza or you’ve never heard of it, Lefty’s will not leave you hanging. And with happy hour every Tuesday through Friday, the Wednesday wing special, and $10 domestic buckets all day Thursday, you have no excuse not to try this exciting new downtown restaurant. Take your friends, have some drinks, chill out in their relaxing atmosphere—accentuated by an awesome selection of music selected by Morris himself—and have some ’za that is sure to change how you see pizza from here on out.
written and photographed by Julian Wyant