The best pizza in Dublin. No con­test.

Pi just does piz­zas. To do just one thing you need to do it well. And they do

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

There’s some­thing very fully formed about Pi on Dublin’s Ge­orge’s Street. It feels like the Ir­ish branch of a chain in­cu­bated some­where c ool er . There ar e speck­led con­crete floors, sub­way tiles, a black tiled wood- fired oven like a gar­gan­tuan Darth Vader hel­met and the name com­ing at you from the 1980s in cheesy 3D graphics. There’s the black cut­lery that your eyes tell you is plas­tic but is, in fact, hefty and real, like the gold- coloured dessert tea­spoons which I pre­dict will be pock­eted by the dozen.

A bucket of cash has been poured into Pi and that’s typ­i­cally the start­ing point for yet an­other re­view ( be­lieve me, I bore even my­self by now) lament­ing the lack of sub­stance be­hind the style.

But hold those horses – it’s such a joy to tell you that Pi is ter­rific. Bring­ing slow food to a big­ger au­di­ence and mak­ing the favourites with bet­ter in­gre­di­ents are com­mon themes with chefs. Go fly you fledg­ling con­cepts, we whis­per. But they stut­ter and fall and we’re left with ar­ti­san- washed menus and cock­tails in jam jars.

And then you get some­one who just loves some­thing and a backer who gets it. Reg­gie White is the pizza fa­natic be­hind Pi. His busi­ness part­ner is John Sav­age, a son- in- law of prop­erty developer Johnny Ro­nan. Af­ter my visit I mine Pi’s In­sta­gram feed for in­for­ma­tion and then mes­sage White for a chat.

The 34- year- old is a for­mer auc­tion­eer who quit in the depths of the crash and went to train in Bal­ly­maloe, where he fell for wood- fired pizza. Hard. He built a pizza oven in his par­ent’s gar­den in Abbeyleix and worked the pizza sta­tion in his brother David’s restau­rant, which hap­pened to be Flour + Wa­ter in San Fran­cisco’s Mis­sion District, the tangy bub­bling epi­cen­tre of the sour dough scene.

So Pi has been eight years in the bak­ing. Child­hood ac­quain­tance Shane

Palmer of Scéal Bak­ery grew up in the same part of Laois, and White worked with Scéal to get the dough to do what they wanted it to do. In the weeks be­fore open­ing they brought pizza geek­ery to hon­ours level, sweat­ing the de­tails like which flour and tomato to use, while fir­ing out the ex­cited In­sta­gram posts of peo­ple get­ting the keys to a sweet shop which is also a toy shop.

We ar­rive early on a Thurs­day evening, which suits a fam­ily din­ner and the fact that queues form af­ter six. It’s walk- ins only. We sit at the back of the long room which is bright thanks to a west- fac­ing win­dow. There’s a diner in a high chair chomp­ing on the pil­lowy sour dough crust and adding her happy noises to the gen­eral buzz.

This is not a pizza restau­rant that does sal­ads or sides. They just do piz­zas, 12- inch piz­zas. The prici­est one is ¤ 16. Do­ing one thing seems like a fresh idea these days when a bliz­zard of menu op­tions is the de­fault set­ting. To do just one thing you need to do it well. And they do.

The piz­zas come out of the belly of the fur­nace with puffy crusts dot­ted with charred blis­ters in what’s known ( fun fact) as “leop­ar­d­ing”. It makes the crust of these piz­zas as good as the rest of them and gives a rea­son to or­der the dips, the only side on the menu, to make the very best of them.

There’s meat on some of the piz­zas but it’s from the less is bet­ter school, cured and spiced tasty bits of pig, like the Gubbeen chorizo on the sal­s­ic­cia with piquillo pep­pers, as well as the tangy heat of pick­led chill­ies.

The funghi ( not made with sliced- up dol­phin as one of our lads sug­gests) has frondy hen of the woods mushrooms with two kinds of cheese – Grana Padano and fontina. There are fresh spinach leaves and a sage cream to add two dif­fer­ent riffs of green flavour. It’s heart­en­ing when the veg­gie pizza is the best ( and most ex­pen­sive) one on the menu. There’s a ve­gan one here too which sounds de­li­cious.

Our boys love the margherita op­tion, where again noth­ing is dumbed down, from the truly toma­toey sauce to the higher- end cheese.

Dessert is a small steal from the brother’s restau­rant. A “choco­late budino with sea salt flakes” started life across the pond in San Fran­cisco, but that’s okay be­cause it’s de­li­cious, a pot like choco­late in but­ter form or but­ter in choco­late form, which­ever you pre­fer, with those crunchy flakes of salt draw­ing your taste­buds’ at­ten­tion to the silky sweet­ness.

Pi smells like a fran­chise. If they can scale up the idea and the at­ten­tion to de­tail and keep it at this level across a few pizza restau­rants then here’s a chain you could love.

As I’ve fre­quently de­clared, the best pizza in Dublin is round ours, thanks to our in- house pizza geek and a re­cently ac­quired wood- fired oven. But we only do five cov­ers, 12 at a push. So Pi is the best pizza restau­rant in Dublin. No con­test.

Din­ner for five with soft drinks, a beer and one shared dessert came to ¤ 76.80.

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