Updated 12/6: The full-service restaurant opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, December 6.
Fans of Bushwick’s Ops, a pizza and natural wine destination, rejoice! The same team is bringing you Leo, a bakery and soon-to-be full-service restaurant, specializing in sourdoughs, pizza, and natural wine. You can tell they’re into fermentation.
A team of partners, including Gavin Compton of Variety Coffee, Mike Fadem, Joey Scalabarino, and Thomas Trout from Ops joined together to open Leo. Scalabrarino runs the restaurant, Trout leads the baking program, and Fadem is the pizza master. The partnership is collaborative, says Fadem, “Ops is a very familial vibe, and we want this to be the same.”
The bakery opened in October and the restaurant is planning to open next week, in the former location of The Lodge, a restaurant that was open for 15 years. The previous tenants left a cheerful green and white striped awning over the bakery, “A casual-feeling space is the goal,” says Fadem.
The bakery offers square slices, sandwiches and panini, fresh loaves bread, Variety coffee, and will offer wine once the liquor license comes through. A small retail shop sells canned tomatoes from Bianco DiNapoli, named best tomatoes for pizza by Bon Appetit, and fancy tea, by Teal. With 15 seats and lots of sunlight, it invites pedestrians in for an afternoon slice or morning coffee.
The restaurant will have 70 seats, bigger than Ops, and will have a more expansive menu while still focusing on pizza. There will also be pasta, including a vegetarian lasagna, multiple salads, soft serve, and tiramisu for dessert (also available at the bakery). There is a large bar area, and plans for sidewalk seating in the warmer months. Guests can start a tab in the bakery and then move to the restaurant, or pick up a loaf of bread on the way home for morning toast. The full-service restaurant opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, December 6.
The pizza at Leo began with a sourdough starter from Ops, but has some key differences. First, Leo’s oven is a “deck or electric” oven rather than wood-burning, which offers a lower and more consistent heat.
“I thought it’d be a fun challenge to do our thing that way,” says Fadem. Pies spend longer in the oven at Leo than at Ops, resulting in a more uniform and sturdy crust, rather than the soft center of a Neapolitan style pie. Leo’s pies spend three and a half minutes in the oven, compared to Ops’ two.
The additional few minutes in the oven means the kitchen doesn’t have to precook as many toppings. On the slice menu so far are meatball, mushroom, sausage and broccoli rabe, potato pie with dandelion greens, and classic Margherita and (vegan) marinara options, the latter two current bestsellers. It’s the kind of slice you can fold, redolent of a slice joint. The casual bakery has square slices, while the full service restaurant has both squares and round pies.
Wine is a huge part of the experience at Leo. The dining room features two wine fridges and open shelving, where guests will be able to grab a bottle of natural wine labeled with prices. As at Ops, there is no written wine list. Servers guide customers to a bottle that works for them, pouring tastes, and asking questions. This structure means the list changes frequently, rewarding curiosity and regulars. There will also be beer and cocktails.
Sierra Echegray, the wine director, formerly of Four Horsemen, is new to the team but already feels “like family,” Fadem says. As Fadem observes, there are many things that are more straightforward about opening a second restaurant, such as already having a relationship with suppliers and entering a space that was previously a restaurant.
The Williamsburg neighborhood is one Fayet calls home and he’s excited to meet guests who might not have traveled to Ops in Bushwick. Another change from Ops: Leo uses a standard tipping system, unlike Ops’ “service included” model, which Fadem admits is hard to make work financially, “people get a sticker shock when they see the initial prices.”
Leo’s is not named after a person (though one employee is named Leo). Rather, the name is meant to pair with Ops, they’re both three letters and part of the same mythology. Ops is a Roman goddess associated with grains and fertility and lions are one of her symbols.
123 Havemeyer Street (at Grand Street)
Bakery open daily 8:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The restaurant will be open daily until 12:00 a.m.
Leo will only take reservations for large parties.