Pizza a Little Outside the Box

Photos by Monika Wertman
By Rick Hemphill

By early morning the stone hearth has cooled to 400 degrees. Greg Kane adds oak logs into the firebox which will begin to increase that temperature throughout the day. More wood has been added and by 11:00 am fresh vegetables can begin to roast in the oven and turkey can be cooked in the 500 degree heat.

As the temperature rises just before lunch the wood fire has the oven hot enough to cook Pizza to perfection. “The wood fire is not what cooks the pizza,” says Greg Kane, who with his wife Marjorie own the Flying Pie Restaurant at 43 S. Potomac Street in Hagerstown.” “The hot stone cooks the bottom and the hot air in the oven cooks the top.” “The pizza browns from the reflected of light of the wood fire as it bounces around in the oven.”


“You have not experienced pizza until you have had a pizza from a wood fired oven,” says Marjorie. “What we have here will change the way you look at going out for pizza.” “This is not just another pizza shop.” “Our ingredients are incredibly fresh and our concoctions of toppings are out there but our results are not only beautiful but delicious and will leave you wanting more.”

“We have tried things such as Brussels Sprouts,” Greg says lending credence to their pizza range of specials. “We didn’t think that it would move and it sold out.” “We have a fall pizza with beets and squash, and we did a clam pizza which cooked the clams in the shells as they opened with the heat.”

“This is not a pizza place per se like others where everything is packed and chopped.” “This is Pizza a little outside the box where it is all fresh and we use local organic ingredients anywhere we can.”

“We also partner with other small businesses and farms,” Marjorie interjects. “We partnered with Krumpe’s Donuts for their annual donut drop by perfecting the recipe for bread pudding made with their donuts and it goes well with our smore’s pie.” “I think that meatier pies are more popular with the fellows.” “The “Broadway Bomb” and especially the “NY NY” which is topped with steak, sausage, bacon, pepperoni, and ham while the “California Dreaming” is the most popular with the ladies topped with the tossed salad, avocado and chicken.” “It was a lot of hard work toil and practice in the kitchen to come up with the menu options.”

The menu at Flying Pie is unique and they are always adding specialty pizzas. Their goal from the beginning was to be different. “We don’t have a fryer and we don’t have any fried mozzarella sticks or similar pizza standbys,” Greg continues. “I enjoy coming up with simple things that we can sell in Hagerstown, like a pizza with apples on it.” “We do things a little differently and many customers tell me they can’t get a pizza like this unless they are in New York”

“Patrons come in and tell me that this doesn’t feel like Hagerstown,” Greg elaborates. “They feel they are in New York, Washington DC, Connecticut or somewhere else.”

“For an hour they can be somewhere else and our décor is designed that way.” “During the past year we have become a destination restaurant especially on the weekends and the majority of our customer base on Face book is not from Hagerstown.” “You can come in here and feel like you are in New York and get the wood fired pizza experience.”

Creating that wood fired pizza experience was the culmination of a series of events that the Kane’s never anticipated when they married in 1997. “We entered into the restaurant business as a couple, out of the necessity of employment as Greg was working for a company in Frederick that folded unexpectedly while we were in Florida on a Disney vacation,” Marjorie remembers. “I have a career with the Washington County Public Schools so initially he was looking to purchase a property to do what he had been doing in Frederick.” “The realtor we were working with asked him to think out of the box as there were some businesses for sale in need of good management.” “There was a pizza place over near Hagerstown Community college that was reasonably priced and was lacking on site management.”

“So we bought it and tried it,” Greg exclaimed. “It was not that bad but it was not what we wanted to do.” “We had a pretty good pizza background after about a year and we went out to Las Vegas to the International Pizza Expo to see what was going on in the industry.” “That was where we had this crazy idea to do a kind of wood fired pizza with a bar thing.”

“In Vegas we became enchanted with the Wood fired pizza,” Marjorie interjects. “There was nowhere in this area where you could get a wood fired pizza.” “We started designing the brand and the logo.” “We knew what we wanted things not to be more than what we wanted at first.” “I am originally from the Jersey Shore and in New Jersey a pizza is referred to as a pie.” “We make our own dough so our pies fly and that is where the name came from.”

“We sold our other business and everything just kind of came together,” Greg says.

Unlike most pizza operators the Kanes are of Irish, Scottish and English decent and that enhanced their uniqueness when they opened the restaurant in 2013. “We did a soft opening with social media and we wanted to be selective for our opening,” Greg says. “We created our own nightmare as people registered to get a seat by email and out of the gate we were swamped.”

“We both have demanding jobs and we underestimated the demands of owning a business like this by a long shot,” Marjorie says proud of their efforts. “It is far more work than the little pizza shop we had before and it is so close to you that it never ends but we have this amazing concept and we want to base ourselves in the heart of this city.” “That is a little scary but that is a risk that we are willing to take and we are committed to the City’s revitalization.”

That commitment starts early. “We start at 9:00 in the morning to start our prepping and wind up by 11:00,” Greg says. “We make our pizza dough fresh each day and one batch is 70 dough balls.” “Our dough is a special recipe which uses three different flours and each dough ball has to age for two days before it is used.” “We will make 600 hand rolled dough balls for the weekend pizzas.” “The Friday night events bring a lot of people downtown and that really helps our business.”

“Our foot traffic is fantastic during events,” Marjorie says enjoying her diverse customers. “Last Friday night there was an Maryland Symphony Orchestra show at the Maryland Theater and a couple who had had their AARP cards for some time sat up at the bar while we had a big bench full of kids in homecoming gowns.” “That is just so awesome to have such a broad appeal.”

“Hagerstown is still a place that downtown will swell during events even though 75% of our Face book customer base is not from Hagerstown.”

“We wanted to do things nontraditional and I knew it was going to work,” Greg says. “I just kept loving the wood fired concept and that helps me create what I wanted to create.” “Pizzas are so beautiful when they come out of the oven.”

“That is a canvas that someone had to work.” “The best pizza made is our simple and elegant Marguerita pizza.” “It is what a pizza should be sauce, mozzarella and basil and to me when a pizza is cut it is destroyed.” “That is why for the first eight month we would not cut a pizza we provided a pizza cutter so that each customer could do it themselves unless it was boxed for carryout.” “Now we cut them as our customers prefer it that way.”

That commitment to quality and the perfect pizza drives Greg forward. “I know my product and I can just sit and look at what will work,” Greg says with experience.” “I won’t taste a specialty pizza as other palettes are different than mine and I want to know what they think of it.” “We are doing a broochudo, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper pizza finished with fresh basil and parmesan cheese on a red base as our next special. Our fall pizza is butternut squash and candy cane red beets with carrots and potatoes with ricotta and fresh rosemary.”

In addition to menu changes their downstairs will be opening up soon which is used for private events. “It has a full bar, two TVs and will accommodate about 75 people,” Marjorie explains. “We have rehearsal dinners, local company parties and businesses that bring in presentations.” “We have done all of our marketing in social media, Face book and some twitter.” “That was preferentially where we wanted to go to find likeminded people who knew where we were going and would stay with us.”

“I’m seeing full seats in the future,” Greg says with a smile. “We will see the downtown going in the right direction with more events and we are going to start our first major menu revision.”

“You can’t get an apple, blueberry or rhubarb pie here,” Marjorie exclaims. “We are a wood fired pizza.” “We are a little different and a little unexpected but for those willing to give us try they will be pleased beyond their expectations.”

The Flying Pie Restaurant 43 South Potomac Street Hagerstown, MD

Comments are closed.