New pizzeria brings taste of the big apple to Kansas’ own little apple

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From an authentic yellow taxicab smashed into the side of the wall to a hot brick oven, Manhattan’s newest pizza place lives up to the slogan “where the big apple meets the little apple.” AJ’s NY Pizzeria, located on 301 Poyntz Avenue, opened Saturday.

After living in New York City, AJ’s owner, Adam Peyton, moved back to Manhattan and said he was disappointed in the pizza selection.

“At AJ’s, we hand toss our dough,” Peyton said. “The dough is really the key ingredient because it is crispy and chewy. We only use the freshest ingredients.”

First-time customer Julie Hobaugh said she works downtown and AJ’s location is really convenient. Hobaugh said her slice of mushroom pizza was delicious and she liked the crisp crust.

“There are a lot of pizza restaurants in town, but this one is unique because they do pizza by the slice, and with Old Chicago across the street, I thought they would have a lot of competition, but I think they are going to do well,” she said “The lunch buffet is just another option for people working downtown, and it’s within walking distance.”

Peyton said he did most of the remodeling of the pizzeria himself, but brought in a friend from Brooklyn to produce signature recipes. In 10 months, Peyton turned what used to be a Schlotzsky’s deli into a thriving pizzeria. Pizza can be made to order for size or per slice. AJ’s also offers several specialty pizzas.

“I actually worked with Tom Lehmann, who is a renowned pizza author and an expert in the industry,” Peyton said. “He taught me how to take the New York recipes and make it work in Manhattan, Kan. Every ingredient we use is used in New York.”

Peyton said one unique cooking style they use is to steam tomato peels off instead of using acid. This technique creates a smoother taste and decreases the risk of heartburn. He said AJ’s is the only restaurant in Manhattan that uses this technique.

Along with fresh pizza, specialty salads and made-to-order salads can be found on the menu. Peyton said customers might create their salad from more than 50 toppings and 11 lettuces. In the future, Peyton said he wants to remodel the outside sitting area into a comfortable space for customers. The outdoor garden might create a space for lunch meetings and family celebrations. Other features of the restaurant are the shuffleboard table.

Manhattan resident Tara McConkey said she heard the food at AJ’s was good and wanted to give the locally owned restaurant some business.

“This is the first New York–style pizza place in Manhattan,” McConkey said. “I bought two pieces of pizza because I didn’t know how big the slices were.”

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