For a small city, St. John’s has a lot of options for a pizza lover; we’ve got everything from greasy late night slices at Sal’s to the internationally acclaimed gourmet fare at Pi.
Olio Pizzeria on Harvey Road opened during the string of apocalyptic snowstorms the city experienced in early February. Olio describes itself as “St. John’s first make-your-own pizzeria.” This unique spin on the classic pizza joint model is making the restaurant a hit in a town already teeming with quality ‘za.
Olio takes the make-your-own pizzeria slogan more seriously than you might expect. In addition to letting customers pick their own toppings from Olio’s ingredients list, staff provide post-it notes and encourage visitors to stick their suggestions and critiques on the wall for everyone to see.
“When you walk into Olio, it’s basically like you’re walking into a giant suggestion box. We’re taking the idea of ‘create your own pizza’ even further to ‘create your own pizzeria’,” explained founder Trevor Hickey.
Hickey says most of the suggestions stuck to the walls have been very practical and easily implementable, like reminding staff to bring napkins, advising cooks to perforate the dough to avoid bubbly crusts, and adding spinach to the menu. However, some of the Post-its have been on the saucier side; one guest thought serving pizzas in zero gravity would be one way “to make Olio special.”
After only being open for a couple (of very snowy) weeks, Hickey is working on responding to the slew of suggestions Olio has received, both through the Post-its and in private messages online.
There’s been a big demand for a vegan pizza, so Hickey is working on a vegan recipe he plans to roll out at a pop-up in the coming weeks. Some customers recommended the restaurant offer a student special, which Hickey is happy to put in place.
“We want students from Holy Heart, St. Bon’s, and Memorial University to be able to enjoy the product at a price point that’s reasonable for them. They’re important customers,” Hickey said.
Some customers complained the restaurant’s décor is a little bland, so Hickey is teaming up with Buy My Art, a local organization that helps artists find venues to sell their work. Through the partnership Olio will be hosting a pop-up art gallery in the restaurant. Hickey is excited to be able to improve the restaurant’s aesthetic by featuring emerging artists.
Hickey says the Post-its are a way of letting people know, “…we’re serious about creating a community-centric brand, something that’s built around exactly what our customers want.”
Hickey lives near Olio, and says he was inspired to open the restaurant because he loves idea of having a local pizzeria where neighbours can get together and hang out.
“Hopefully we go from scrappy new pizzeria to a community fixture that people really enjoy.”