Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Knead a Slice? A pizza passion fires up at the Broad Street Market.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Knead could have changed his mind. The new craft-made, hearth-fired pizza shop is the latest business to open in the Broad Street Market’s stone building, filling a noticeable void with hand-tossed pies and locally sourced ingredients.

The brainchild of Harrisburg native Jennie O’Neill and her husband Terry Hanley, Knead was borne out of the couple’s passion for pizza, one that took them on a winding path until they settled down in O’Neill’s hometown.

The two met while attending Fordham University in New York City. With O’Neill majoring in economics and Hanley in accounting, they were not exactly a traditional recipe for prospective pizza stand owners. But they shared mutual interests, including an appreciation for good food.

“I fell in love with Italian-American food while living in the Bronx,” said O’Neill, who grew up on N. 2nd Street. Added Hanley, a Staten Island transplant, “The Bronx is the true Little Italy of New York.”

O’Neill has spent years in and around the restaurant industry, including her most recent stint as general manager for Appalachian Brewing Co.’s Cameron Street location. She also worked in Philadelphia’s oldest restaurant as Hanley pursued a law degree in the city. And it’s there where she really found her inspiration and passion.

After stints living in both Philadelphia and, most recently, Queens, both agreed it was time to leave. They chose Harrisburg because O’Neill’s parents still live here, and the couple loved the area. They decided to put down roots and set up shop—a pizza shop.

The three-year experiment, as they describe it, has been trying different recipes to arrive at the perfect dough for their pies. And because practice makes perfect, they installed a pizza oven in their yard to help them hone the craft. From there, the jump to Broad Street made sense.

“The market didn’t have pizza, and we happened to have been working on pizza recipes for a long time,” Hanley said.

The pizza they make is fresh and simple, with a deep focus on quality ingredients.

“The dough is everything,” said Hanley. “We tried 40 different flours before we arrived at the one we use today.”

The flour is imported from Italy, a super-high protein, finely milled flour that makes a tremendous difference in the taste. Unlike most traditional pizza shops that make their dough in the mornings, O’Neill and Hanley cold ferment their dough in the refrigerator for two days. The process gives it a better flavor. They make their sauce—a mix of plum tomatoes, salt and olive oil—ahead of time to allow for quick preparation on site. The brick oven heats to 900 degrees and can cook a pizza in two minutes, the perfect convenience for customers in a hurry.

Knead offers patrons two options: Sicilian by the slice and 12-inch pies. Customers can pick their own toppings, which run the gamut. Even vegans have a choice, as Knead makes pizzas with vegan cheese. The couple currently is looking for gluten-free flour to make dough for customers with special dietary needs.

Both O’Neill and Hanley emphasize the warm reception they’ve received since setting up in the market and the customer base that continues to grow, including little ones with special cravings.

“Little kids are adorable,” O’Neill said. “We have a little girl who is into mushrooms and will eat an entire mushroom pie. And a little boy who just loves Kalamata olives. It has exceeded our expectations.”

The added benefit, said Hanley, the native New Yorker, is being in an environment where you can say hello to people and then actually get to know them.

O’Neill and Hanley are thinking about Knead’s future, but, for now, they’re just enjoying doing what they’re doing, which is filling a hole in the market’s offerings and serving up fresh pizza. From the outset, their mission has been about keeping things simple.

“Everybody loves pizza; don’t mess it up,” Hanley said.

Knead is located in the stone building of the Broad Street Market, N. 3rd and Verbeke streets, Harrisburg. For more information, visit their Facebook page: Knead HBG.

Author: Ann Beth Knaus 

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