The Traverse City restaurant, The Flying Noodle, opened in July 2020. Yep, in the middle of COVID-19. They have a lot to share about the challenges and prides of a year like no other—and must-try pizza.

One long year after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Michigan, some Northern Michigan businesses have closed their doors permanently and others are still struggling. Yet despite the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, or perhaps in defiance of it, there are also stories of success and gratitude. In the March Craft Food & Drink issue of Traverse Magazine, we talk with a restaurateur, farmer, grocer, winemaker, brewer and others who share some of the challenges of 2020, the triumphs and a few goodies you’re going to want to taste this month.  Later this week, watch for an interview with Rove Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Featured in the March 2021 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Check it out!

Opening a restaurant is incredibly hard. Opening a new restaurant in the midst of a pandemic is …

A challenge. In general, every corner of this industry poses an opportunity for thinking outside the box; this opening was full of uncertainty and forced us to stay on our toes. It was constant juggling. When construction was able to begin again (after a three-month pause), we had to find staff, get food and tableware ordered with a broken supply chain … there were a lot of moving parts. We are grateful to have come out on the other side with an open and operating business.

What are you most proud of this year? 

Our team, showing up every day, serving the public, especially when we had no idea exactly what this pandemic meant for our health and safety. They have bobbed and weaved every step of the way with us, upholding procedures to keep ourselves and our guests safe and healthy.

Who is someone that had a positive impact?

Our regulars whose names keep showing up on our caller ID, placing orders week after week, we so appreciate the support! For those who shopped small this holiday season, every gift card, T-shirt, and Limoncello purchased helped us to stay afloat, supporting our staff and their families. Jean Derenzy and the DDA team, for undertaking the task of blocking off Front Street so that we could have outdoor dining last summer—it was a great jumping-off point and gave us an opportunity to get more people to experience our product.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in 2020?

Overall navigating the many unexpected variables presented by Covid-19, but also figuring out how to retain and support our staff who are here working and those who we had to layoff. We started an employee relief fund to raise funds for those team members unable to work; our company matches each dollar donated and distributes the money to those who are experiencing financial hardships.

What’s a must-try item that’ll be on your menu in March?

Beyond the incredibly delicious pasta, and the fact that choosing a favorite dish is like choosing a favorite child, I highly recommend giving our pizzas a try. The dough is light and airy, while the cheese lends richness and an awesome crunch as it melts down the sides of the pan and crisps to perfection. So many of you have gotten to try it as carryout, but there is nothing like it fresh out of the oven. Along with that, keep an eye out for fresh flavors as spring rolls in; it’s chef’s favorite season and you’ll taste the love. Feeding a group? Our pasta boxes will not disappoint, each box feeds four to six people with pasta, meat (or veggies), cheesy bread and a large salad. It’s the next best thing to dining in.

And what beverage would you pair a pizza with?

We are blessed to live in such a thriving wine region, and what loves pasta and pizza more than wine. We have been fortunate to stock several wines from some of our local favorites. I highly recommend Shady Lane Cellars 2017 Cabernet Franc with a classic pizza, marinara sauce and fennel pork sausage (one of my personal favorites). Shady Lane’s General Manager Rick DeBlasio describes the wine as “a lot like reds from Tuscany, and other northern Italian regions, there is a brightness that makes it really food-friendly.”

Is there anything else you want to share?

We can’t say it enough, without the support of the amazing people who surround us, be it staff, community, family, friends and people who we’ve never met, that have given what they can, we may very well not be here, and we are grateful every day. We are looking forward to rolling into this summer with positivity and a glass half full outlook.

Find more food and drink articles in the March 2021 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe and get Traverse delivered to your door each month.