Bake Me Crazy
Pizza and cookies by Fingerle's
by Sally Mitani
From the June, 2014 issue
Owner-chef Harold Solomon's specialty is pizza and cookies. His Bake Me Crazy is aimed at campus, an area already well-supplied with pizza and cookies, but the competition does seem a bit tame, or sane, by comparison. Think of your favorite comfort food and slap it on a pizza crust, and you'll probably hit on one of Solomon's daily specials: along with more traditional pies, he'll be rotating oddities like pot roast pizza, mac and cheese pizza, fettucine Alfredo pizza, drunken noodle pizza, and a holiday pizza ("turkey and stuffing, topped with cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes piped around the edges," he says enthusiastically).
Solomon bakes his cookies in half a dozen familiar flavors, but also offers a "schizophrenic" cookie (half and half of any two of his cookie doughs baked to order). He also does brownies with candy bars melted on top, and he delivers ice cream (though unlike the pizzas and cookies, it's not made in-house).
Solomon's own college days are long in the rearview mirror. He says he's "older than dirt" and learned to bake bread working for Au Bon Pain in the 1970s. He was hired by Domino's in 1980 as its "dough expert" and ended up as director of R & D. "This was before they took the big fall in reputation--I could tell you stories about that."
Do! "It was all about marketing," he begins. "Everything went downhill when Mike Raymond, the vice president of marketing, left in the early 1990s. That, in combination with losing its first thirty-minutes-or-less lawsuit."
It's a tantalizing glimpse into ground zero of a corporate shakeup, but it's also twenty-year-old news. So back to the present: how did he go from there to Bake Me Crazy?
"Do you remember when Insomnia Cookies had their truck? I was the cookie truck guy," parked outside the Union for students with the late-night munchies. Solomon explains how Insomnia's truck was hounded out of existence by city bureaucrats who wanted it to keep moving
like an ice cream truck, "but we couldn't. We had kids lined up around the block." No matter. By the time Insomnia Cookies decided to ditch the truck and commit to retail space on South U, Solomon had come to believe that pizza and cookies should be sold together. He wasn't able to interest Insomnia founder Seth Berkowitz in the concept, so he decided to do it himself.
In early May Solomon was about ready to open in the former wholesale office of Fingerle Lumber. He expects to be well underway by June, though he'll be doing some experimenting with the hours over the summer. He thinks he'll do most of his business by night, and mainly by delivery, but "whenever I'm making pizzas and cookies for delivery, I figure I might as well be open for anyone who walks in."
Bake Me Crazy, 108 E. Madison, 997-9810. Sun.-Wed. 10 a.m.-midnight, Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-2 a.m. No website yet.
[Originally published in June, 2014.]