First Look: Var’s Pizza opening soon in the Perkins Road Overpass District

When the sign reading “Var’s Pizza” went up in front of the former Unleaded BBQ a few weeks back, Perkins Road passersby were naturally curious. There wasn’t much of a crumb trail on Instagram—at least not until local culinary entrepreneur Danny Wilson posted earlier this month that he’d been hired to run the kitchen.

Wilson tells 225 that Var’s will open the week of July 7. The casual Perkins Road Overpass District spot features indoor and outdoor seating and an old-school pizza parlor vibe. New York-style pies will be made with artisan dough from fast-growing local bread maker, St. Bruno Bread Co.

Var’s Pizza Executive Chef Danny Wilson

Var’s will maintain Unleaded’s spacious outdoor patio and playground in hopes of capturing neighborhood families. But the late-night crowd is also a target market. Wilson says the restaurant will stay open until 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and it has plans to add other late nights. Ultimately, it will be open late Wednesday through Saturday, he says.

“There’s just so many people walking around here at night when the bars close,” Wilson says. “There’s been this huge migration to eat at Zippy’s when all the other food service closes at 10.”

Var’s gives them an alternative, he says.

The restaurant will offer a new drive-thru window. Wilson anticipates to-go orders could be about 50% of the business.

“Not having to get out of your car is huge,” he says.

Wilson, 51, is a familiar face in local food circles. Many remember his December 2023 face-off with friend and food personality Jay Ducote on the Food Network’s Superchef Grudge Match. He’s also the founder of the Soulshine food truck and its now-closed brick-and-mortar predecessor, Soulshine Kitchen + Bar on Chimes Street. And he was a past part-owner in Frankie’s Dawg House and Brickyard South.

Wilson had been focusing on his food truck—now permanently parked at Pelican to Mars and still operating with guest chefs—when Var’s owners Chad Hughes and Edwin Edwards Jr. approached him about running the new pizzeria. The two also own Ivar’s next door.

Wilson said he likes the consistency of a brick-and-mortar restaurant and was also excited about being able to use locally made artisan dough.

“That’s what won me over to do this,” Wilson says. “When they told me St. Bruno would be doing the dough.”

St. Bruno dough will be delivered daily. It achieves a thin texture with a chewy edge, Wilson says.

“It’s foldable, like a New York slice, but sturdy enough to keep toppings from sliding off,” he says.

The Coonass Pizza

And while Var’s crust might be artisan, the vibe is deliberately unfussy, channeling the gritty, welcoming patina of big-city pizzerias. Watch pies slide in and out of a double-chambered oven with long-handled peels. Order single slices at lunch and late at night. Glance at the menu on an old-school blackboard with moveable white letters. Take in edgy graphic murals by Baton Rouge artist Bryson Boutte.

Come here for pitchers and shots, not for craft cocktails, says Wilson, who estimates he’ll serve about 25 different beers, 12 of which will be on tap.

The menu features pizzas in two categories. Classics include cheese, pepperoni, Margherita, a veggie combo called the Garden District and a meat lover’s riff named the Meat Puppet.

Among the more creative combos are the Coonass, with boudin, cracklin’, honey and pepper jack cheese, and the taco-style Julio with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, black olives and sour cream. Wilson is particularly excited about the Mary-Mary, with fig, prosciutto, red onion and balsamic reduction, and the Nashville hot chicken-inspired Jason, with fiery pieces of chicken, chicken skins and wing sauce. Wilson says he plans to add pizzas of the month to try out new ideas.

The mostly-pizza menu also includes a few salads and appetizers, free soft serve for kids and a s’mores-like dessert pizza called Camp Crystal Lake with strawberries, chocolate, Nutella and marshmallows.

Var’s Pizza

Past patrons of Unleaded will notice the entrance has changed. Enter the restaurant from the left side of the patio into a small dining room with counter ordering and a separate bar. Food runners bring orders to tables, but don’t look for simple numbers on tabletop stands.

“We’re gonna do iconic album covers instead,” Wilson says.

He gets to pick the covers.

Var’s is at 3030 Perkins Road. For more information, follow it on Instagram at @varspizza.