In March 2019, Unsukay Concepts partners — Ryan Turner, Todd Mussman, and Chris Hall — got word that the lease on the old Littla Azio space in the Ivy Walk plaza, a few doors down from their Muss & Turner’s location, was coming available. So, the trio got to talking.
It was a slow start as the group was not exactly out looking for opportunities to expand. But, after catching word that another popular restaurateur was looking at the space, the partners started thinking about the possibilities.
When they got inside the space to check it out, they learned that the former Italian restaurant came stocked with a Renato pizza oven…which turns out is a really great oven. That got the wheels turning.
The boys couldn’t stop thinking about pizza and started down the rabbit hole researching different pizza places across the world that they had been or heard about. They quickly realized how complex the world of pizza is.
There are styles, regions, flours, doughs, tomato sauces, ovens, cheeses, and on and on. They decided that if they were going to step into the pizza game, it would have to be their version of it. It had to be pizza that they know they’d enjoy themselves on a consistent basis, a similar approach to how they took on sandwiches at Muss & Turner’s back in 2005.
The idea of a tasty, casual neighborhood pizza spot was taking shape and it was even coming a bit full circle for Chef Hall who got his start in pizza working at an Atlanta-based Pizza Hut and Fellini’s as a teen.
The trio knew if they wanted to make this idea work it all hinged on their commitment to a delicious product and process, particularly with the dough, to help differentiate the pizza.
Classically trained in fine-dining, Muss committed himself to the art and science behind pie-making to ensure the crust would lay the foundation for really great pies. The self-proclaimed “mad scientist” got to work in his lab aka: his home kitchen with some clear direction from Hall for the outcome he envisioned for the crust.
Ripping through 50-lb bags of flour, Muss began testing out different flours, percentages of yeast, fermentation times and more, baking the pies in his garage using a countertop Roccbox oven that heated up to 900 degrees. He was seeking out and geeking out with subject matter experts from all over the country. The group hosted pizza party after pizza party, testing dough, sauces, cheese, getting feedback, and having a blast doing it.
After six months of testing, researching, experimenting and generally obsessing over dough, Muss was lovingly nicknamed “doughboy” by his wife. He ultimately landed on what he felt was the best recipe and fermentation time for the dough that would produce a crust that was light, full of flavor, had nice chew, but was not too flimsy and not too crispy.
Never trying to emulate a style other than their own, Muss jokingly named the pies “pizza a la Smyrna” as everyone was trying to put the style into a box. It was neither Neopolitan nor New York nor Roman-style for that matter. In reality, it was a hybrid of all three. Hall was so excited as Muss nailed exactly what he was envisioning all along and they finally had what they thought was the best local pizza.
The partners all set out separately to write out their own vision of what the unnamed concept at the time would be. They knew from past experience that if either of them felt no genuine ownership or connection to the creation of the concept, it would be very difficult to achieve the success they desired and could jeopardize the business.
The origin of the name ultimately came from Hall’s wife, who so eloquently pointed out the obvious to the group. Muss & Turner’s had been around the Smyrna community for nearly 15 years. She told them not to overthink it. People already knew and understood that name and quality behind it.
After suggesting M&T Pizza, it made sense to the group, but Turner and Muss were not satisfied until the name included Hall — which led them to MTH Pizza. It was a done deal.
They officially opened the doors to MTH Pizza in October 2019 and quickly earned the title as some of Atlanta’s best pizza. Today, it’s our hope that our little pizza shop will continue earning its way to becoming a valued fixture in our beloved community of Smyrna.