For nearly a year, David Stephan and Robert Wagner have been serving Cedar Rapids pizza-lovers fresh New Haven-style pizza at Need Pizzeria in downtown Cedar Rapids.

The Second Avenue spot has become one of the most popular pizza joints in the city - over the lunch and dinner hours they're almost always packed.

"We're busier than we expected to be," Wagner said. "It's a nice problem to have."

It seems there's just something about their pizza that people need, which is perhaps why they were vote "Top New Restaurant" in Hoopla's Top Shelf awards.

"You rarely meet someone who doesn't like pizza," Wagner said. "It's something a lot of people can get behind."

For him, he said pizza is a "necessity" (hence the name).

"There are times I really absolutely need pizza," he said.

It's his favorite food. His "go-to." He eats it every day and rarely gets sick of it - only once, for two months when it was literally the only thing he ate, he said. But he "detoxed" and hasn't had an issue with it since.

With a "build your own" menu of more than thirty toppings, he thinks their pizza can "appeal to any genre of person." The 30-plus craft beers on tap don't hurt either.

The two owners are Iowa natives - Stephan from Cedar Rapids and Wagner from Cascade. They met in their early 20s while working at the Cedar Rapids Country Club. They briefly parted ways, continuing to work in the restaurant business for 10 years before reuniting to open Need in late July last year.

During that time of separation - from 2006 to 2012 to be exact - Wagner managed a pizzeria in Chicago called Piece, where he discovered and fell in love with New Haven style pizza.

The Connecticut-based New Haven style focuses first on it's thin, chewy and distinctively charred crust.

Wagner - the man behind Need's pies - crafts dough from scratch and "generously" hand-stretches it to form a large, thin crust with "good body," he said.

Traditionally, New Haven pizzas are cooked in coal or wood-fired ovens, but not at Need. They have a gas-fired bakers oven.

Layered on the crust is a delicate balance of sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you want.

Some of Wagner's favorite recipes include a white sauce pizza with goat cheese, bacon and banana peppers, or a white sauce with clam, bacon, lemon and Tabasco - this one, he said was "life changing" when he first tasted it in Chicago. The barbecue sauce, chicken, bacon, mashed potato is a fan favorite and one of many "funky" combinations, he said.

When they opened Need, they wanted to be "different" but also approachable for anybody, whether they're wearing a "suit and tie or sweatpants," Wagner said.

Mostly, after 20 combined years working in other restaurants, the pair just wanted a place to do things their "own way," he added.

Top Shelf Profile

Best New Restaurant: Need Pizza

Address: 207 Second Ave. SE, No. 200, Cedar Rapids

Contact: (319) 362-6333;

Runners-up: Bata's Restaurant, 1006 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, (319) 261-2355,; The Quarter Barrel, 616 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, (319) 200-4140.

Online: To view the Top Shelf magazine, go to