Chef Brad Brown is making a culinary leap, from The Blue Frog bakery to The Red Frog pizzeria.
Brown, who has owned The Blue Frog on Green Street for the past 12 years, will open La Rana Rossa — “The Red Frog,” in Italian — in the space formerly occupied by Cafe Bartlett Square, at the intersection of Green and Amory streets across from the Green Street MBTA station.
The new restaurant, slated to open this winter, emerges out of pop-up pizza events Brown has held at the bakery.
“We’ve been running ‘Pizza Party Friday Nights’ at The Blue Frog, and it’s been going so well that we’re gong to recreate that down the street,” said Brown, who lives in Jamaica Plain in between the two locations.
La Rana Rossa will be more than pizza: Brown hopes to start serving bakery items — pastries, croissants, coffee and the like — in a couple of weeks, followed by quick-service lunch starting in early January featuring sandwiches, panini, salads and pizza. In the evening, the restaurant will transform into a sit-down, full-service establishment serving pizza; Brown hopes to be prepared for a soft opening for dinner sometime in February.
The restaurant will apply for a beer and wine license. “We’ve got the patio there, and I see it being great in the middle of summer, sitting on the patio with pizza and a glass of wine,” he said.
Brown serves 12-inch individual pies, hand-tossed with a thin crust. “I’ve tasted a lot of pizza in this town, and I’m a baker, so I think I can mix dough pretty well. The rest of it is pretty easy,” Brown said. He uses a convection oven, which creates a nice, crisp crust without burning it, he said.
He plans to continue serving the pizzas he prepared at Blue Frog, which already have a strong following in the neighborhood. They include the pizza margarita with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; a four-cheese pizza; a roasted mushroom pizza with red onions and arugula; a sweet Italian sausage pizza with ricotta cheese; a “3 fine meats” pizza with Genoa salami, capicola and soppressata; and what’s probably his signature pie at this point, the pizza puttanesca, with spicy tomato sauce, garlic, red onions, anchovies, capers and black olives infused with truffle oil.
Pies are $11 to $14, a price point Brown intends to maintain. “I’d like people to be able to come in and have a pizza and a beer for less than $20. We want to be accessible for the neighborhood,” he said.
The new, larger kitchen will also allow for increased on-premise baking. In addition to the items served at Brown’s own bakery, “we make hamburger buns for Grass Fed, which is going to be opening a second location, so we’re going to be making more buns,” he said. He plans to keep the decor very similar, although he does want to install some banquette seating and new tables.
Brown is entering this venture with his fiancee, Ginger Russell, as his business partner. “You’re going to see the joy we have together in this [restaurant],” he said.
Despite the activity at La Rana Rossa, Brown does not anticipate any changes at The Blue Frog. “We’ve got a good little thing going here, with a great sense of community,” he said. And he’s pleased to be opening his newest venture right down the road.
“I love JP. It’s my home,” Brown said. “I love the people here, and I wouldn’t want to do this anywhere else.”