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Going Into Business With Your Brother-In-Law Doesn't Always End Well...

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"Going into business with your brother-in-law doesn't always end well…"

As South Shore-style bar pizza (SSBP) becomes all the rage many people who haven't had it are finding out where it's being made and then going there to try it. In some cases, they're finding that there are pubs and bars close by, some right in their own cities and towns, who've been serving up SSBP for years. As a lover of SSBP, I enjoy the authentic nature and storied history behind some of the places in my neck of the woods, most of whom have been family-owned and operated for a very long time. Town Spa (Stoughton) was established in 1955, Buddy's Union Villa (Easton) 1974, Cape Cod Cafe (Brockton) 1938, Lynwood Cafe (Randolph) 1949, Home Cafe (Brockton) 1933, Venus Cafe (Whitman) 1964, and Poopsie's (Pembroke) 1973. These places and places like them (I couldn't list them all) have an established and loyal clientele who are ready and willing to argue that their favorite SSBP place makes the best pizza around. And, believe me, they take their pizza seriously…

South Shore-style bar pizzas originated in the South Shore section of Massachusetts & are 10" pan pizzas that feature cheddar cheese, laced/burnt edges, a cracker crust, & toppings that go right up to the edges. 

Those who love SSBP agree that two of the most important factors in creating a delicious pie are the secret recipe and the skilled pizza maker. Traditional pizza ovens are manned by experienced pizza makers who know exactly when to pull a pie so it's not undercooked or overdone. Those who respect the process condemn ovens that use conveyors because they believe it minimizes the importance of the cook and makes the process somewhat impersonal. There seems to be no middle ground, you either like conveyors or you don't…

Opening a new SSBP joint can be a difficult and challenging endeavor. There are the established places that have the history, secret family recipes, old school methods, a loyal clientele, and fully-stocked bars. So, what made brothers-in-law Marc O'Brien and Jasson (pronounced Jason) Cohen believe they could successfully open a new  SSBP joint in Mansfield, MA? For starters, both Marc and Jay dreamed of someday opening a restaurant that served bar pizza, and after talking with them it came down to their belief in their product and in each other…

In addition to a spacious dining area inside, there's some outside seating as well. The umbrellas were damaged in a recent storm but new ones are on the way! (The restaurant is located in Mansfield Crossing)

When Marc and Jay initially began planning to open a SSBP restaurant, and before they signed a lease, the first-time business owners knew they were going to need legal advice so they began interviewing lawyers. After hearing pitches from several law firms, they weren't thrilled and that's when Jay decided to meet with one more lawyer. Within the first two minutes of the meeting, the lawyer interrupted Jay and said, "In the middle of a pandemic you're gonna open a restaurant with your brother-in-law, are you a fuckin' idiot?" That was all Jay had to hear… He immediately called Marc who said, "That's our guy!"… Jay admitted he and Marc wanted a lawyer who would be blatantly honest and wouldn't pull any punches…

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Marc and Jay began the process of establishing the Bar Pizza & Salad Co. in July of 2020 and signed a lease in November of 2020. Marc has bar and restaurant experience, having worked in the foodservice industry for 30 years. He began at 16 as a dishwasher, by 21 he was the General Manager of a pizza restaurant, and most recently, Marc spent 16 years at the popular dive bar Anchovies in the South End section of Boston. Once he and Jay decided to open a SSBP restaurant Marc worked tirelessly perfecting the recipe, and at home in his own kitchen much to the chagrin of his loving wife. He quit his day job and is now making pizza seven days a week… Jay has worked in finance and investment for tech companies and he naturally manages the Bar Pizza & Salad company's finances and social media presence. Jay has technical skills while Marc is quick to admit he's not a tech guy. Marc keeps Jay out of the kitchen and Jay keeps Marc away from the books! Because of their different skill sets, it's the perfect partnership. 

In addition to buying over 250 10" pizza pans from "The Famous" Bobby Owens, Marc and Jay got Bobby's help laying out of their kitchen, which at one time was home to Papa Gino's who located their pizza oven in the way back. With Bobby's help, they changed it up so that the workflow begins at the rear of the kitchen where they take deliveries and put their ingredients into a walk-in cooler. In the middle of the kitchen the slicing, dicing, kneading, and grating takes place and that's also where the pizzas and salads are made. At the front, the pizzas are cooked, boxed, sliced, and picked up by their customers. It's a very impressive and efficient layout, and Marc and Jay can't say enough about Bobby O and the entire staff at Bay State Restaurant Products who were so helpful during the entire setup. There were a lot of hoops to jump through and permits to pull and Marc and Jay rave about the Town Of Mansfield's Building Department, which was especially supportive during the lengthy remodeling process, one that took place during COVID.

Proud brothers-in-law, Marc & Jay in front of their pizza oven. They have different skill sets, respect one and other, and never fight or argue. They simply solve problems together & that's the secret of their success…

The restaurant opened in mid-March of 2021 and the brothers-in-law were off to a great start and going gangbusters. It began with three days of charity fundraisers they were doing for Mansfield's youth baseball and football and the Tri-County Saints youth hockey team. It got competitive as each organization got a day to help out and they got to keep 50% of the proceeds for their day, a very generous donation. 

Marc is originally from Hyde Park and lived all over Boston before settling in Mansfield with his family in 2007. At 47, Marc is still playing competitive hockey and he's a die-hard Bruins' fan. His two boys, ages 10 and 12, are following in his footsteps and are hockey players too.

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Jay is originally from Sharon and currently lives in Wellesley with his family. He has three kids, a boy age 12, and two girls ages 11 and 8. They play soccer and field hockey. He began dating Marc's sister Shannon in high school and that's when he and Marc became great friends and it was out of that friendship that their partnership was born. Both Marc and Jay are not strangers to SSBP, with family roots in Brockton, they've both been eating SSBP since they were kids.

They'd just gotten their business up and running in mid-March of 2021 when after only a few weeks one of the employees tested positive for COVID and they were forced to close. Just after they reopened another employee tested positive and they were forced to close again. Neither were symptomatic, but Marc and Jay followed all protocols and then set up a very safe and efficient take-out process, making the most out of a very difficult situation.

They have a great-looking box for takeout, which can be done online and the pizzas are ready for pickup in under 30 minutes! You can also call (774-719-2683). 

Initially, there were some speed bumps that got their attention, but Marc and Jay made the necessary adjustments and now put out a legit SSBP. I headed over to check out their restaurant and try their 'za…

The dining area is newly renovated and it's spacious with high ceilings, perfect for getting out of the weather and eating some great tasting SSBP and fresh salads with family and friends. They're installing a couple of flat-screen TVs and they should be ready for the upcoming football season. (SSBP, beer, and football… I'm all in!)

Although I didn't try the salad, I saw them being prepared and they looked really good! They sell their pizzas and salads at a 75-25 clip, but they're hoping that once word gets out about their delicious salads, salad sales will continue to soar. 

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Great-looking salads!

At Bar Pizza & Salad Co. all the pizzas pass through a modern conveyor oven where they're cooked to perfection. Marc believes a conveyor oven helps maintain consistency, an important factor in any restaurant's success. I watched the pizzas being cooked and tradition aside, I was impressed with the oven. These two brothers-in-law didn't open Bar Pizza & Salad Co. to give it a try, they're clearly in it for the long haul.

A Hobart dough mixer with a cheese grater attached gets it done!

They use a blend of Cheddar and Mozzarella, a proprietary sauce, and fresh pizza dough made in-house. Marc made me three pies, a cheese, a hamburg, green pepper, and onion, and then he made one of his own creations that's not even on the menu yet, a specialty pizza with barbeque chicken (shredded), bacon, and red onion on a creamy garlic sauce, topped with a cool ranch drizzle…

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Marc prepared 3 pizzas for me to try… (It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it!)

Their cheese pizza was excellent as was their hamburg, green pepper, and onion. I would've been very happy eating slices from those two pies, but Marc urged me to try his specialty 'za… I must admit when comes to food I'm a simple guy, there's no way I would've ordered his specialty pie, uh-uh, too many ingredients for me… In an effort to be courteous I grabbed a slice… Wow! I can honestly say it was one of the tastiest pizzas I've ever eaten. It's pure "crack pizza" and I couldn't stop eating it!  When Jay grabbed a slice I was literally ready to throw down with him, but I stopped short, the pizza was free and he's one of the owners… The specialty 'za was spectacularly delicious!

This specialty 'za was incredible! Barbeque chicken (shredded), bacon, and red onion on a creamy garlic sauce, topped with a cool ranch drizzle. I took one bite ("everybody knows the rule") before I snapped the pic… This is "Crack Pizza" if there ever was one!

Final thoughts? Marc and Jay are hard workers and they're constantly trying to deliver the tastiest pizzas and salads. How many boxes do they check? Well, Bar Pizza & Salad Co. is family-owned, they have a comfortable and spacious dining area, they use only the best and freshest ingredients, their laced/burnt edges are perfect, they serve beer and wine for those wanting to wash their 'za down with an adult beverage, and the restaurant is family-friendly. Throw in the fact that Marc and Jay are great guys, I would highly recommend you give them a try (and don't be afraid to order one of their specialty pies!)

Having a sign that reads "est. 2020" lets you know Jay and Marc make no apologies for being a new restaurant. They can't compete with the great SSBP joints lining the south shore that've been serving SSBP for 50, 60, some close to 100 years, but they're not trying to. Their SSBP restaurant is a modern version of the traditional bars and pubs, but their 'za is traditional and authentic SSBP in every way. That's why I give these two brothers-in-law high praise for following through on their dream of opening a South Shore-style bar pizza joint, surviving a pandemic, not being afraid to take chances, and being innovative in their approach. Now that sounds like a recipe for success to me… 

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At least the two brothers-in-law didn't end up like these guys…