Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo
Do you necessarily need an olive tree climbing to the sky right through the floor of a restaurant to top off your experience there?
Probably not, but it certainly enhances the ambiance, while somehow symbolizing the camaraderie thriving underneath it, as guests of MidiCi, The Neapolitan Pizza Co., discovered on opening day recently.
“It’s lovely, especially with all the lights on it,” marveled one patron, whose table happened to be located near the unique centerpiece at King of Prussia Town Center’s latest fast casual eatery.
The meticulously maintained olive tree has a name, Isabella, explained Dawn Fisher, who co-owns the first MidiCi (pronounced Mee-Dee-Chee, meaning “you tell me” in Italian) restaurant in Pennsylvania with her husband, Phil Fisher.
“She is a black olive tree and she’s growing right from the earth. One of the things we’ve been told from the growers is that it’s not uncommon for the trees to drop their leaves as they adjust to a new environment. But in all the months she’s been planted here she’s never dropped her leaves. Her energy is phenomenal, and she seems to really love it in here,” Fisher said.
The California-based pizza franchise with a mission “to bring friends together” was created as a gathering spot for food, drink and conversation over a menu focusing on flash-fired, authentic Neapolitan pizzas made in front of you with basic, simple ingredients and baked to perfection at around 1,000 degrees in 90 seconds in a hand-crafted, wood-fired oven from Naples.
The menu — created by a couple of renowned pizza chefs — also features non-GMO appetizers, salads, meatballs, Italian gelato and a signature dessert, Nutella calzone, featuring whipped cream, raspberries and the famous hazelnut-chocolate concoction.
Diners can choose from traditional and signature menu items or create their own personalized Neapolitan pizzas in the invitingly wide-open, briskly humming kitchen that rivals Isabella for the spotlight in the restaurant.
It’s all part of the young chain’s culture — nourished by founder Amit Kleinberger’s philosophy that “pizza is not meant to be just eaten,” but shared and celebrated, “fostering real human connections and togetherness” — that so enchanted the Lehigh Valley couple seeking their first entrepreneurial venture, explained Fisher, a teacher in the Allentown area.
“My husband and I have always been sort of entrepreneurial for 30 years, but a few years ago a job change for him caused us to get more serious about it,” she said. “We looked into seven different franchises, and when we saw this we knew this was the culture we wanted to be part of … family, good whole foods and being able to see your food being made. We were completely immersed in the culture we saw but hadn’t tried the food yet. So we flew out to California to see the operation, met the CEO and it confirmed everything we saw on paper. It was exactly what we were looking for. Then we tried the food, and it was phenomenal. The dough is made with four simple ingredients: flour, yeast, water and salt. Our prosciutto is imported from Italy and aged 18 months.”
Despite the upscale atmosphere — “fast fine” is the designation of choice, reportedly coined by the chain itself — Fisher is proud of the restaurant’s affordable menu, which offers pizzas starting at $6.50.
“We wanted it to be a place where the whole family can come to eat often,” she said. “In California it’s typical for the lines in the evening to stretch around the building, and that word from California has now made it across the country.”
The geniality of the staff of around 65 people forms the essence of the all-important MidiCi culture, Fisher noted.
“When we came together for the first time we didn’t talk about food for the first three hours. We talked about each other and what it was we were looking for. These are people from all different walks of life who have different goals and dreams who can be very proud of what they’re putting on the table. And that’s why they’re all here,” she said.
As newly inducted restaurateurs, Fisher and her husband already have their sights set on launching a second MidiCi, possibly in their own neck of the woods in the Lehigh Valley.
“This location in King of Prussia is fantastic. We feel we’re in the best place we could be. Our biggest concern,” she added, laughing, “is that choosing our next place will be really challenging, because this place is so wonderful.”
MidiCi, The Neapolitan Pizza Co., is located at 201 Main St., King of Prussia. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 to 1 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.