The first person you’re likely to see when you walk into the new brick-and-mortar location of Mootz Pizza, on the back edge of Countryside Village, is Brent Adkisson, Mootz pizza chef Collin Adkisson’s dad, working at the cash register. Look around and you’ll also probably spot Ruth Adkisson, his mother, prepping in the back of the kitchen, or clearing tables in the dining room.
Collin Adkisson himself is right there, too, preparing the pop-up turned food truck turned dining room’s signature thin crust, wood fired pies.
To say Mootz, an opening I’ve been anticipating since 2021, is a family affair is kind of an understatement. It’s unusual these days to walk into a restaurant and see an entire household hard at work to deliver an experience; the good news is, Collin and his family know what’s what, and Mootz, I am happy to say, does not dissapoint.
During two recent visits, we tried a selection of the regular pizzas on the petite Mootz menu, along with three of Collin’s daily special pies, which he told me after my visits, he sometimes literally comes up with on the fly.
For example, on our second visit, I got the pizza to-go (a popular option) and originally ordered hamburger, but then learned the menu that day included a Philly pie, so went for that one instead. Collin said he’d realized the kitchen had everything to make it (hamburger, green peppers, black olives) and he’d grabbed a jar of Lawry’s seasoned salt on the way out the door that morning to complete it.
Though conceptualized in the moment, you wouldn’t have guessed it after tasting the Philly pie, which Matthew and I both thought of as an upscale take on the Nebraska hamburger pie, with more flavor and a clear commitment to good ingredients. It was, in two words, surprisingly refined. (Yeah, I know, kinda funny. But true!)
I thought the same when I tried his take on a Buffalo Chicken pizza, if you can believe that. Juicy chicken from Western Iowa’s Flavor Country Farms gets torn into hunks and scattered on top of a calabrian chili Buffalo sauce and two cheeses: Fior de latte, which is a pure cow’s milk mozzarella, and Grana Padano. The whole thing gets a handful of “micro celery,” pretty green wisps that bring both color and subtle flavor.
This is a pizza that could have been drowned in sauce, but isn’t. It’s balanced and well-composed.
A note on the crust, before we move on: I think exactly the same thing now as I did when I first wrote about Mootz. The naturally leavened, wood-fired crust has that lovely crisp-chewy base with a bubbly, airy edge. Collin keeps toppings light, which means that it’s never soggy, and holds its integrity, even when driven from 87th and Pacific to 10th and Dodge (though it cooled off, naturally, it still tasted good when I got home.)
Collin said so far, things have been going great at the new location.
“I love this neighborhood,” he said. “Everyone is so nice around here.”
He said between the nearby Westside High School and Christ the King school and church, plenty of young people (and plenty of their parents) are stopping in. He said evenings, in particular, have been busy.
“I worked in restaurants downtown for most of my career, so its really nice to be in the neighborhood,” he said.
Mootz sells pizza by both the slice and the whole pie — likely part of that neighborhood appeal — though the daily specials are available as a whole pie only. One night, we tried four different slices, which Collin serves as a whole pie and said he likes to call the “Tour de Italy.”
The core menu covers what I’d call all the “classic” pizzas: pepperoni, Margherita, cheese, hamburger and sausage, along with three specialty pies that Collin said are based on the Pizza Hut menu: meat lover, supreme and veggie.
I really enjoyed a slice of the sausage, which had fennel-heavy meat crumbled on top of tangy red sauce and nicely melted cheese. It appears again on the supreme, along with pepperoni, hamburger, mushroom, green olives, onion and black olives. Speaking of pepperoni, it’s great, the cup-and-char kind that settles into little, delicious, crisp bowls.
In a controversial — at least in the pizza world — move, Collin recently ran a Hawaiian pizza on special after several customer requests, but he did it the Mootz way, with fresh cut pineapple instead of canned and the best quality Canadian bacon he could find. That quality was clear a couple of bites in, as the ham had a pleasantly crisp edge and the small chunks of pineapple, applied with restraint, weren’t watery. Collin said Hawaiian pizza isn’t really his thing — it’s not mine, either — but I liked what he created.
The biggest change in moving from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar, he said, has been volume: he has more space, a bigger oven, and it’s easier to get his hands on special ingredients, like the 00 flour he uses.
I did notice one change, and that’s that the crust at Mootz, which used to be exceptionally thick, has gotten a bit thinner, a choice I think most diners will appreciate, as it makes more room for toppings.
I have no doubt that Collin will continue to create interesting, unusual and likely delicious pizzas — I can’t wait to try his bacon, egg and cheese breakfast pizza, for example.
“One of my favorite things about pizza,” Collin said, “Is that one ingredient can totally alter the whole pizza.”
He’s right, and that’s great. And how fun for the city of Omaha: we get to be the ones to see wha the comes up with next.