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Motown Square: Detroit-Style Pizza for Carryout and Delivery Popping Up At Mess Hall

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Motown Square, a Detroit-style carryout and delivery pizza shop from *chef Paulos Belay, opened today, Saturday, August 29th. Belay is a Detroit native with Ethiopian roots who says he aims to bring authentic flavors from his childhood to DC with his concept out of Mess Hall, a culinary incubator in Edgewood. Motown Square will be popping up most weekend evenings to offer a limited supply of pizzas.

chef Paulos Belay in an apron smiling
Chef Paulos Belay

Belay moved to the District in 2018 after finishing culinary school in Michigan. Driven by homesickness, he began making pizza. He says he was craving Detroit style pizza and "couldn't afford to fly back for a visit." Frustrated, Belay began experimenting, trying to recreate the flavors of Buddy's Pizza, a favorite from his childhood in Detroit. He spent six months developing the signature dough he uses today. After deciding to work towards founding his own pizza concept, Belay worked at a bakery to hone his skills and learn more about running a food establishment.

Those experiments carried Belay through until today, tinkering and refining until he felt that his pizza was ready for a wider debut. Belay says he ultimately decided to take a chance and open now as he wondered, "how much longer would I be waiting if I waited for this crisis to end?"

While Motown Square's debut offers four traditional Detroit-style pizzas, Belay also adds a hint of his Ethiopian roots to the menu. His signature sauce utilizes Berbere, a spice mixture commonly used in Ethiopian and Eritrean foods. He says the spices are a nod to his roots and to his family's long history with food. Belay's grandfather opened a bakery in Ethiopia sixty years ago and was his inspiration to go to culinary school.

Belay emphasizes that he aims to create pizzas that represent "a marriage of [his] family history, drawing on traditional Ethiopian spices and marrying them to the authentic, Detroit-style pizza" that he grew up on. He notes that future menu plans include a few "distinctly Ethiopian" pizzas.

Motown Square will be open most Saturdays and Sundays operating out of Mess Hall at 703 Edgewood Street NE, Washington, DC, from 5 pm until sold out.

To start, the menu contains four pizzas, with planned additions in the future.

Order online for takeout or delivery through Toast.

*I have a prior relationship with chef Paulos Belay as I matched him with free resources for Black-owned food businesses before his launch. I ordered and photographed the pizza shown above without any discount and without the chef's knowledge for an accurate representation of the food.

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