Review: The Missing Brick
Some people take their pizza seriously, and some take their pizza too seriously. The guardians of authentic Neapolitan pizza, for example, insist that the wood-fired pies of Naples begin with a roundish crust 30 to 35 centimeters in diameter with a raised edge that is “swollen and free from burns.” Toppings—tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, and mozzarella—must hail from the local Campania regions, according to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which keeps tabs on the brand. I would never turn away a blistered, saucy slice of Italian authenticity, but I feel bad for the duteous Neapolitan, so bound by rules. Because of all the food groups, pizza is the one that seems designed to have the most fun.
The Missing Brick gets that, blazing out extravagantly gooey, unapologetically rectangular pizzas in a 1,500-square-foot spot off Binford Boulevard, the former home of Black Diamond Barbecue, since early summer. Its brief menu of signature pies includes an extra-thick Buffalo chicken pizza fortified with cream cheese, drizzled with ranch dressing, and dotted with crumbled blue cheese, as well as a Pineapple Express with pulled pork, bacon, red onion, and barbecue sauce that would make the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletanan clutch its pearls. The 12-inch-long “individual” pizzas cooked free-form in custom perforated pans look more like released casseroles, thick and bubbly with mozzarella, cut into eight fat squares that make you the star of your own happy, lip-smacking mukbang video when you bite into the thick, saucy tectonic slide of ingredients. This pizza breaks all the rules and then makes up its own.
It’s hard to categorize Missing Brick’s particular breed of tomato pie. On the dough spectrum, it tracks somewhere near the husky extreme. It doesn’t have the cheesy stretch of a Chicago deep-dish or the crunchy, oil-sizzled focaccia base of a Sicilian. Detroit-style pizza is a thing now (even though its history goes back more than 70 years), and its squared-off sides and thick profile look an awful lot like what Missing Brick owner Que Wimberly presents in crisp white boxes for $16 a pop. But let’s not label. “I didn’t want to compete with the Italian world, and it’s not Chicago-style,” says the first-time restaurant owner who also runs Que Alexander Brows, a Castleton eyebrow spa, which is still her day job.
Wimberly decided to invest in a restaurant as a new business venture with her two adult sons: Keith Bigbee, 24, and Derrick Murray, 20. And then she schooled herself in the craft by attending pizza and pasta conventions around the country, taking dough-making classes, and doing a lot of research and development with Indy-based Italian distributor Delco Foods. What she ended up with is a dense, thick, flatbread-like crust that’s a good blank canvas for traditional red sauce and can hold up to heavy cheese and thickset toppings. “People ask me what kind of pizza this is, and I tell them it’s Indy-style. It is its own thing.”
Wimberly wanted her menu to incorporate a lot of bold, urban flavors that allude to “meals in the urban community that we eat regularly and can identify right away,” she explains. Like buffalo chicken, tacos, and lasagna (represented here in the OG pizza, layered with pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ham, and beef under tomato sauce and cheese). One of her big sellers is the Woodstock, a meaty, molten slab weighted down with a two-cheese blend, barbecue sauce, and tender chopped brisket sourced from the near-west side’s legendary mesquite-wood spot, Hank’s Smoked Brisket. The sturdy crust holds up to the weight of the meat and provides the yeasty backbone for that smoky perfume of flavors.
But the obvious darling at Missing Brick is The Trap Pizza, which amounts to a seafood boil served by the slice and loaded with strategically placed shrimp and lump crab held in place under a blanket of stretchy cheese. It features a generous dousing of OG Garlic Herb Trap Buttah, the liquid gold that draws customers to chef Oya Woodruff’s Florida-style seafood pull-up at the corner of Keystone Avenue and 34th Street, Chef Oya’s The Trap. It’s topped with a shake of Young Bae Spice—a riff on Old Bay seasoning created by Indy food blogger (FoodLoveTog.com) and recipe developer Candace Boyd Wylie. “Chef Oya is a client of mine at the spa,” says Wimberly. “One day, I told her I was thinking about opening a pizza joint, and she said, ‘Oh my God, let me help you. And let’s make a Trap Pizza.’”
One evening, I saw Chef Oya herself perched at Missing Brick’s counter, just sitting there eating her pizza as if she’s not some kind of food royalty. Woodruff, who competed on an episode of Food Network’s Bite Club last year and is a driving force for local black-owned and female-led businesses, was focused on her dinner, among a crowd that included a date-night couple at a nearby high-top, a table full of girlfriends sharing a bottle of Reggae margarita, and two older women who took their seats beneath the wall-sized mural of hip-hop legends Cardi B, Nikki Minaj, Jay-Z, Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross, and the three members of Migos.
The mural, painted by local artist Maurice Rowe, is the first pop of color you see when you step inside the 21-and-over, evenings-only, Thursday–Sunday pizza joint. “The mural was to definitely let people know that this is an urban cultural experience. So come in and enjoy the vibe,” says Wimberly, and full disclosure, I had to ask a much-younger friend to help me identify five-eighths of the people in that mural. But now I know.
The place is smallish inside, its dining room not much bigger than the open kitchen where Keith puts in orders and Derrick, the pizzaiolo, pulls molten pies out of the 90-inch Marsal brick oven that runs around 700 degrees (do not make the mistake of biting into your order as soon as it emerges from the inferno—let it cool for about 10 minutes while you polish off the last of the Moscato). On especially busy nights, like the First Friday parties when Wimberly brings in a DJ, it’s best to take your pizza outside to the patio and eat it under the umbrellas and lights. Music pours from the speakers, blasting trap music from artists like Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross, and Migos. People bob their heads to the beat, and some people are straight-up dancing. Customers perfecting their corn hole game and flexing their oversized Jenga skills pause to listen when the snack bar–style window slides open, and somebody’s order number is called out. Because The Missing Brick is the kind of place where people take their pizza seriously—but not too seriously.
The Missing Brick
6404 Rucker Rd., 317-257-7557
Thurs., Sun. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5 p.m.–midnight
Piled-on pizzas served by the box, loaded salads, beer, and wine.
The Trap, topped with shrimp and crab, and the meaty Woodstock, with a box of sweet, buttery Moon Rocks—balls of baked pizza dough with icing dip—to go (or, let’s be honest, to eat in the parking lot before you leave).
Pizzas $16; salads $12; Munchies $3; house wines $5–$8