“Girl Power” is the theme behind an upcoming Cooking Channel show called Pizza Cuz. The program travels the country in search of amazing pizza stories, and on June 3 lesbian-owned Amici’s Pizza in Berkley (with a second location in Birmingham) will be featured as one of the most successful woman-owned pizza places in the country.
Boss-ladies Jennifer Stark and Maureen McNamara bought the pizzeria eight years ago from Stark’s brother, and all told the establishment is celebrating its 20th year. They are known for their high-quality ingredients including homemade gluten-free crust and their whole wheat crust. When available they use local ingredients and have worked hard to be as non-GMO as possible.
Pizzas featured for the show include Portabella mushroom, Caribbean Spicy Jerk and Black Bean. “It was a full day shoot,” Stark said. “The first thing they did was mic us. They filmed us from 10 in the morning until 7 at night. They interviewed customers. We made pizzas. It was fun.”
There are a few things that set Amici’s apart from other pizzerias. “We try to create an atmosphere where everyone is welcome. We have a lot of regular customers and they say they feel really comfortable here,” Stark said.
The walls of Amici’s have ever-changing artwork by local artists. “We display the work for free, we don’t take a commission like other places do. We just want to support artists,” she said. Another signature Amici’s feature is the back patio, which has evolved over the years into a peaceful garden-like place where customers enjoy romantic lighting and beautiful landscaping. “We gave it a woman’s touch,” Stark said.
Pizza Cuz also focused on the couple’s insistence on being as earth-friendly as possible. For the past six years Amici’s has been a certified green restaurant. “We recycle all our cans, bottles and packaging. We use green cleaning supplies. And we use biodegradable wear – forks and knives – and our to-go containers are made of sugarcane,” Stark said.
Amici’s is a local favorite, having won several awards including Best Gourmet Pizza from the Metro Times for 2010 and 2013, Best Gourmet Pizza from the Detroit Free Press in 2002, and City’s Best Pizza from 2005-2007 from AOL City Guide.
Stark and McNamara run the business together, working every day to keep things running smoothly. Their long-time staff is a testament to the fact that there isn’t a job they won’t do – from taking out the trash to cleaning the restrooms.
The couple has been together for eleven years, and has been working together for eight.
The women, both 50, met back in high school. They were in band together and both played the clarinet. “We lost touch and re-met 20 years later,” Stark said.
McNamara had been living in New York and was working in the music business. She eventually moved back to Michigan so she and Stark could have a life together. “I could not find a job in the music industry, so we bought Amici’s. It’s a better fit for me to have my own business,” she said. “It’s the realization that if I had my own thing it allows me to run it the way I want.”
“For us it works pretty well,” McNamara said. “We seem to have a good working relationship. Her qualities sort of go together with mine. At the end of the day your partner makes you a better person. We have the quality where if one person goes off a little, the other can step in. We laugh a lot and we like each other.”
Pizza Cuz airs June 3 at 9 p.m. on Cooking Channel. See the program’s website at http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/shows/pizza-cuz.html.
Learn more about Amici’s Pizza at http://amicispizza.com/.