Punk Chef Pizza and Bar in downtown Moorhead announces it is closing

"It's become too much" to keep the eatery open, the owners said in a Facebook message. The last day is Saturday, Jan. 28.

Punk Chef Pizza and Bar is pictured in late May 2022, at 801 Main Ave., Moorhead. The restaurant's owners announced that the eatery's last day of business will be Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

MOORHEAD — Punk Chef Pizza and Bar, which has served its slices with a winking nod to the youthful aggression of 1970s punk rock, is closing its doors Saturday, Jan. 28.

The downtown eatery with the motto of “Hey! Ho! Let’s dough!” made the announcement on its Facebook on Friday, Jan. 27.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce that tomorrow, Saturday, 1/28, we will officially be closing our doors,” the business’s Facebook post said.

“We appreciate everyone’s support, especially the Moorhead community. After having to close during Covid as Usher’s and re-opening under this new concept, and trying our damndest, it’s become too much,” the post said. “We will miss you. Stay Punky.”

A reply to the Facebook closing announcement said that gift cards would have to be used up by the close of business on the final day.


A follow-up post said that the eatery will open at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Fans of the restaurant's take on pizza pie and drinks were surprised by the closing announcement.

“What!? Gosh darn. Love your pizza,” one customer said.

“Dang sad to hear this! We’ve been a few times & enjoyed it. Thank you for trying!,” another diner said.

“Oh no... This was our ‘place’ and the only good pizza place in the area. We were there last night! You'll be missed by our little family!” another pizza fan said.

Co-owner Fabrizio Di Gianni promises "to cook as we cook in the motherland."
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The restaurant and bar at 801 Main Ave. S.E. opened to the public June 1 of 2022.

For owners Nate and Melissa Sauvageau, it was the third shot at looking for success with the space on the main floor of the Block E building.

In a May 2022 interview with The Forum, Sauvageau said he hoped that the price point of the pizzas and other offerings would work for the area’s college students and families living downtown and the surrounding residential neighborhoods.


Co-owner Nate Sauvageau says the radical turn from fine dining to 'zahs with attitude should be the concept that leads to success for downtown Moorhead's Block E restaurant and bar.

North Dakota artist Punchgut brought a bad-to-the-bone vibe to the restaurant, adding punk-themed wraps and murals to the windows and wall - heavy on the mohawk skulls.

The concept change was a major pivot from two previous Block E building iterations of Usher’s House, which took solid aim at the fine-dining crowd. Both attempts were hamstrung by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first concept was open 10 months before state-mandated closings of bars and dine-in restaurants in mid-March 2020. That closure ended up lasting about a year.

When Usher’s House reopened in spring 2021, it offered a slimmed-down menu and small-plate tapas, offering up a more laid back and social vibe. That lasted until just before Christmas 2021, when the restaurant closed again, unable to source ingredients to keep the menu consistent, Sauvageau said.

Sauvageau settled on the pizza concept as a more sustainable option through future supply chain snags, as well as being more affordable and appealing to a wider group of customers, including students at MState, Concordia College and Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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