After seeing the success of Piece Pizza’s December effort — when the Wicker Park restaurant gave away 100 pies to restaurant workers facing financial struggles during the pandemic, co-owner Rick Nielsen wanted to do more. Nielsen, the famous rock guitarist from Cheap Trick, began recruiting his friends in the industry. The first one to heed the call: Sammy Hagar, the vocalist who fronted Van Halen in the ‘90s. Hagar also founded the Cabo Wabo tequila brand, and has since teamed up with Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dive’s Guy Fieri on a new agave project.
From Thursday, January 14 through the end of the month, Hagar and Nielsen have teamed up to sell a special pizza called the “Classic Rockin’ Red 5150.” $5 from each pizza sold will go to the Chicago Independent Venue League. CIVL has helped concert halls like Subterranean, Thalia Hall, Hideout Inn, and Metro Chicago, survive during a pandemic which has cancelled live music in the city, and in other sane parts of the country. The organization represents more then 40 Chicago venues.
“Rick saw what we did for industry workers and asked: can we do this for live venues?” says Piece co-owner Bill Jacobs, predicting the idea will be a big hit.
Music venues owners — and their bartenders and other staff — received good news when the federal government approved the Save Our Stages Act in December. That will bring $15 billion in relief, but more needs to be done to ensure venues are around once it’s safe enough to assemble for large gatherings.
Jacobs wants to make this a series, with a new collaboration every month in the same vein as Piece’s work with Pilot Light. That’s when Piece features pizzas created by Chicago chefs (Stephanie Izard; Girl & the Goat, Paul Kahan; Publican, and Jason Hammel; Lula Cafe have participated) to benefit the charity that advocates for better food education for young children. Jacobs was tight lipped, but he says he’s got some big names in the works.
Nielsen and Hagar’s pizza is a red pie with extra sausage, sauteed mushrooms, and onions caramelized in dry-hopped larger called Brew Balance made on premises. The collaboration costs $27. Order on Piece’s website through January 31.