By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The newly opened PI Craft Fast Fired Pizza Kitchen in the Town of Tonawanda features a variety of specialty pizzas, foccacia sandwiches and chopped salads, but regional manager Jason Singer said the new restaurant isn’t looking to replicate the experience found at a typical Western New York pizzeria.
Whereas many pizzerias may bake their pies for 20 minutes or so in an oven, PI Craft uses a brick oven, making for a crispier slice of pizza.
But they don’t use just any brick oven.
“We have the first fast-fire conveyer brick oven in New York State,” Singer said.
What that means is that instead of a team of cooks or chefs standing around a traditional brick oven constantly turning pizzas as they cook, the conveyor belt pushes the pizza through the 700-degree oven without the need for an overseer.
“The technology came out with bricks that rotate through the oven and we can (cook a pizza) in two and a half minutes,” he said. “And we have it right there on the spot.”
It’s not faster than a traditional brick oven, but it eliminates the need for extra staff to observe the process.
“If you leave (the pizza) in the same spot (in a traditional brick oven) it burns instantly,” Singer said.
So that leaves the staff at PI Craft more time to carefully hand craft each pizza, something that start to finish Singer says takes about six minutes.
The owners, three chefs who own Ember Firewood Grill in Livonia, “want to sell what they sell in their restaurant but they want to do it in six minutes,” Singer said. “People want to eat healthy and they want to east fast and they want it to taste good.”
The restaurant is meant to be a hybrid restaurant of fine-dining cuisine with fast-food speed. As such, the restaurant makes a point to use high-quality, fresh ingredients.
“We make all our sauces from scratch, we grind our cheeses and make our meatballs in house,” he said, adding that most of the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible.
The restaurant features some two dozen ingredients, including six different cheeses; six sauce bases; a variety of meats, including braised pork, choice petit filet, hormone-free chicken and spiced turkey sausage; and a whole slew of vegetables, including caramelized onion jam, artichoke, olive tapenade and other, more typical pizza toppings. During the warmer months, the available menu offerings will change as the restaurant carries seasonal produce from local farms.
And it’s not just the variety, but the quality of ingredients that’s important at PI Craft, Singer said. All ingredients are pesticide-free and only a limited amount are frozen prior to use.
“People want to eat healthy and they want to east fast and they want it to taste good,” he said.
Customers can order one of six signature pizzas, including classic cheese, chipotle BBQ chicken or smoked ham and artichoke, or choose from among the ingredients to customize their own pizza.
For those not hankering for a pie, PI Crust also officers what they call foccacia-wiches — sandwiches made with in-house made foccacia bread — and chopped salads made from the same ingredients available for pizza.
And none of these creations are made with the aid of a microwave or fryer — neither is is present in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Keeping with the local theme, PI Crust serves Niagara Falls’ Johnny Ryan sodas on tap, and to limit their carbon footprint, uses cups and trays made from recycled materials.
For more information about PI Crust, visit www.pi-crust.com.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: PI Craft Fast Fired Pizza Kitchen
• WHERE: 1750 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda
• MORE INFORMATION: Call 833-5300, or visit www.pi-craft.com
Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.