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Pizza Pi: Cardboard with tomato paste

| Wednesday, September 25, 2019

JOSEPH HAN | The Observer

I do not claim to be a pizza expert. In fact, my East Coast colleagues would assert that my Nebraska heritage makes me the very opposite of such.

But, I have the belief that when a person is a restaurant’s first customer, they acquire a certain right to judge that same restaurant. Such a customer has a unique understanding of that establishment. Whenever he or she eats there, they are able to view its progression in a unique way — from its beginning to its current state, from its alpha to its omega.

I have, through a matter of random chance, been placed in that position with a certain restaurant on campus that is referred to as Pizza Pi — or, colloquially, that place behind South Dining Hall that costs a little too much and tries a little too hard. Since I am in this position with Pizza Pi, I will attempt to fulfill my duty as their first customer and exercise my judgment upon the restaurant.

This review — if it can be called such — will only deal with the dish that lends Pizza Pi its name. I may have tried its salads, mac and cheese, pretzels and breadsticks bites. I may have opinions on them. But, for the sake of brevity and quality of criticism, this article will not deal with them.

Pizza on Notre Dame’s campus is not subject to intense competition or held to too high of a standard. Pizza Hut, Modern Market and the dining halls all present their own takes on the Italian classic. None of them are anything of note but, at the same time, they never descend into anything unappetizing. Campus pizza thrives on mediocrity. If you possess a craving for pizza, each of the three aforementioned establishments is sure to satisfy it.

It is here where Pizza Pi differs from its competitors.

If you were to enter the kitchens of Modern Market, Pizza Hut and the dining halls, you would see their respective pizza artisans pulling pizza dough into a circle or placing it in a pan. The process and the fact that pizza dough is, in fact, used may not take place right in front of your eyes, but you can certainly taste it in the product itself.

At Pizza Pi, however, it does take place directly in front of you in a Subway-esque style. And, nothing similar to what happens in the other three establishments takes place. Whichever Pizza Pi employee happens to be working when you order your $6 to $9 dollar pizza does not stretch the dough in front of you. At Pizza Pi, they grab a rigid piece of what seems to be pita bread and employ that as the base for your pizza.

This, in my opinion, is unforgivable.

Pita bread, or whatever cheap dough alternative Pizza Pi uses, is something that I would expect if I was ordering a kebab at the campus’ new Mediterranean restaurant, Garbanzo, not at a place with pizza in its name.

After the employee behind the counter covers your piece of bread in whatever sauces and toppings you so choose, they then throw it into the pizza oven before presenting you with what tastes like nothing more than a glorified, over-sauced cracker. The crust crisps up without any chew, the cheese globs together in what results in an accidental Margherita take on pizza and the quality leaves something to be desired.

Yes, their goal at Pizza Pi may be to make Notre Dame’s premier thin-crust pizza. But, if that is true, then they have gone about reaching such a goal in the cheapest and least appetizing way possible. If any other chains on campus wanted to offer a thin crust option, it would take only an ounce of effort to surpass their not-so-daunting competitor.

The product produced by Pizza Pi could be permissible if its price was equivalent to its quality. But, once again, it is not. A signature pizza at Modern Market costs between $8 to $10, at Pizza Hut just under $5 and at the dining hall, as much can be consumed as possible with a meal swipe that costs between $15 to $19 depending on the time of day. At Pizza Pi, a single, rather small, poorly prepared pizza can cost between $6 and $9 — not the cheapest, but also not the most expensive option on campus. As a result of the financial corners cut during its preparation, as well as the lack of quality in its presentation and flavor, however, it should be the least expensive on campus. Yes, the ambiance at Pizza Pi may be superior to that of the LaFun basement, but I have yet to eat in a room that has made pizza taste better.

Campus Dining has once again squandered an opportunity by placing a lackluster restaurant where there could have been a good one. Pizza Pi, Star Ginger, Hagerty Family Café — they really keep outdoing themselves.

Also, they only serve beer and wine on Fridays and Saturdays.

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About Charlie Kenney

Charlie writes about things with words.

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