Checking In with Pi-oneers of the St. John’s Food Boom

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For all my idealizing, the elf-loving matriarchy of Iceland has let me down. In a joke gone awry, their president recently suggested to a group of high school students he was visiting that pineapple on pizza should be illegal.

The internet went wild. Purists felt they’d found their champion, fans felt he’d gone too far. He issued an apology soon after, which ended with his endorsement of seafood pizza. I don’t care too much about the pineapple debate, but seafood pizza?

I think of this as I chat with Pi’s Meg O’Dea and Andrew Fisher about the flavour combinations in the restaurants’ signature pizzas. Andrew likes the Szechuan, explaining how the habaneros’ heat in the sauce makes sweet pineapple chunks on top really pop. Red onion provides savoury contrast, chicken and other toppings round it out.

Pi’s Szechwan Chicken

With 21 unique pizzas offered, there’s just about everything somewhere on the menu of the laid back gourmet pizza shop. Grapes, asparagus, even salmon.

Grabbing a pint of Quidi Vidi IPA for bravery, I decide to step outside my comfort zone and order the Sir Isaac Salmon. Sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and feta entice me, and as weird as I feel squeezing lemon on a pizza it changes the pie completely, transforming it from “vaguely fishy” to bright and rich, with the right amount of salty.

When I asked Meg what her train of thought is when designing a pizza her response was casual, but this pizza’s balance belies her training both in traditional classrooms and through travel, learning from top pizza chefs in Las Vegas and Brooklyn.

Meg and husband Bart Pierson are preparing to head to Vegas as we chat, excited about attending the World Pizza Expo held at the end of March where they saw the latest pizza trends and technology and competed with other pizza pros. They were discussing the final details of Pi’s entry in the competition, where to buy the pizza ingredients when they get there, and what they should bring from home.

Things can be a little different south of the border. In 2014 when the Pi team took 1st place in the non -traditional International division, they brought a bottle of tap water from home for the crust, finding Vegas water affected the crust negatively the year before. Meg is still excited about the large variety of ingredients available to her in Vegas megamarkets, but she’s in it to win it so details matter.

Hugo Fay is among the staff holding down the fort while Meg and Bart are gone, preparing pizzas, pastas, and soups plus new lunch specials and menu additions debuting in preparation for the summer season. Hugo is a young man and he admires Anthony Bourdain, the world traveling chef, writer and tv personality.

Coming to Newfoundland from Ireland to attend Memorial, Hugo found a job at Pi, the beginning of his own traveling culinary career. “I enjoy the friendliness,” he says of both St. John’s and his co-workers at Pi when asked how his experience has been thus far.

“We have each other’s backs here on the eastern end of Duckworth,” Andrew says of the surrounding businesses. With Mohamad Ali’s, Fixed, Sun Sushi, and Get Stuffed all a stone’s throw from Pi, this ‘off the beaten path’ eatery has found itself part of a fresh, cosmopolitan culinary scene.

About Author

Felicity Roberts

Felicity grew up dreaming of finding a way to pick berries as a profession, and has almost succeeded. A collector of local plants and lore, she is always searching for a new use for an old ingredient, and still wears odd socks to confuse the faeries.

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