The partners behind Sonny’s, the pizza place that finally opened in Park View last night after months of teasing, are hoping their first customers experience something like deja vu.
All the small touches — the scuffed wooden floors reclaimed from an old bar, the orange and white benches snatched from a bowling alley, the tabletops built out of high school bleachers — are intended to make people feel like they’ve been there before.
“We wanted it to feel like it already had a little wear and tear and it already stood the test of time in a way,” says Max Zuckerman. Along with Ben Heller, his partner in the Colony Club coffee shop and bar next-door, Zuckerman opened Sonny’s with former Pineapple and Pearls bartender Cody Hochheiser. The team also installed a separate bar, No Kisses, on the other side of the wall. (That opens next week)
The main draw at Sonny’s (3120 Georgia Avenue NW) will be the pies, of course. Heller has designed a riff on a square pizza with a focaccia-like base that’s supposed to mimic what a Sicilian grandma would serve. Soft squares of bread bookend sandwiches stuffed with Italian cold cuts, chicken and eggplant Parmesan, or pork and beef meatballs.
Zuckerman and Heller will serve whole pies intended for three to four people ($22 to $34), but their priority was to bring the neighborhood a place for quality slices ($3.75 to $4.50).
By working with Brooklyn-based design firm Hecho, they’ve created an environment that sets the expectation for the food before customers belly up to the counter and order a side of garlic knots. Trafficking in nostalgia can easily veer into hokey territory, but personal ephemera keeps the 1970s vibes at Sonny’s feeling fresh.
Black-and-white pictures of the Italian side of Heller’s family are strategically strewn about the room. The owners’ childhood sports trophies spring from shelf to shelf, triggering memories of communal meals with the whole Little League team. Old concert posters from shows in Gaithersburg are hanging courtesy of Zuckerman’s dad, a promoter in the ‘70s.
Groovy yellow, brown, and orange patterned sections of wallpaper would be at home in Eric Forman’s living room, but only if a hip Italian uncle hung out there.
The signature piece of kitsch is a blown-up photo of an Italian soccer team spread across four separate posters. Zuckerman found it while digging through antiques with his brother during a trip to Bologna.