Nizar El Awar came to Ann Arbor twenty-five years ago “to visit my brother, who graduated from U-M. I guess I’m still visiting,” he smiles. Shortly after he got here he opened a tiny toll-booth-sized sandwich shop on South U called Oasis. Now he owns four businesses, and his original Oasis has just been repurposed as South U. Pizza–flanked by his two much larger businesses, Rendez Vous Cafe and Oasis Grill (he also owns Smoka Hookah across the street).
The teeny original Oasis had recently been a candy store called Sweet U, but El Awar closed it last spring, sensing that tastes were running away from sweet and toward savory. At South U. Pizza, four specialty pizzas are always available by the slice: Hawaiian, meat lovers, Mediterranean, and vegetarian. Whole pizzas–pickup or delivery–are also made to order with the usual toppings, plus the slightly less usual but locally expected fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. A short list of Italian subs and salads in the $4-$6 range completes the menu.
If you’re lucky, your pizza or sub will be made by Joe (“nah, don’t give my last name–just Joe”), who talks about pizzas and subs as if they’re fast food art. “It’s not always about what you put in them, it’s how you make it,” he says thoughtfully. “It’s in the order, the quantity. And it’s like that with pizza too. It’s not about dumping on toppings. You have to balance everything.” Does he do the dough throw? “Oh sure, we always hand-stretch it. When it’s bar time, I throw it for show. Hand-tossed pizza, it’s an important effect.”
South U. Pizza, 1106 South University. 761-8600. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sun. noon-1 a.m. www.rendezvouscafe.com