Pi: If this isn't the best pizza in Dublin we'll eat our smartphones
Lisa Cope - 13th July 2018
What’s the story?
We'd heard rumblings of a new pizzeria opening on George's Street for a while, and to be frank we weren't particularly excited. In the realm of pizza/burgers/fried chicken it takes a lot to make us want to give up a meal for what's often over-priced, under-whelming fast food, but something about this one seemed different. After a bit of digging we found out that Laois native Reggie White, the man behind the perfect pizza, had been working in an auctioneer's in Dublin, before jacking it to follow a career in food. After a three-month course at Ballymaloe, his existing pizza obsession grew further, and after various cheffing jobs, and a stint at his brother's award-winning Italian restaurant Flour + Water in San Francisco, he came back intent on finding a site to showcase the Neapolitan-inspired pizza he's spent the past few years perfecting - the problem was where and how with the city's current property situation.
It all started to come together when a friend introduced him to the man who would become his business partner, John Savage, who Reggie says had a "carbon copy" business plan of bringing the best pizza to Dublin. John managed to secure a prime site on George's Street, just off Dame Street, and oversaw the high-end fit out. They quietly opened a couple of weeks ago (no pre-opening fanfare here) and we thought now was a good time to find out if it was the real deal.
Where’s good for a drink beforehand?
We'd head for the newly opened Loose Canon Cheese and Wine, either before for some tasty natural wine or after for a cheese plate (and some tasty natural wine). For cocktails, Bonsai Bar is just across the road and has been getting great reviews for its Japanese inspired creations. You're pretty spoilt for good pub options in this part of town, with The Stag's Head, The Long Hall and Grogan's all a few minutes walk away.
What’s the room like?
Slick and almost futuristic, all red, black, grey and chrome. This was not a cheap fit out. There are low tables and chairs at the front and back, and high tables and stools in the middle. There's also counter seating in the window which is perfect for a quick solo meal or if you just like people watching.
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We loved the sleek white tile effect on the high tables (will we be shot for using the term 'insta-friendly?), and the red leather-look high stools and banquettes made it feel more like New York (or any ultra cosmopolitan city for that matter) than Dublin. The high ceilings give a sense of space that's not often found in city centre eateries, and the chrome wall that's supposed to look like used tomato tins is dramatic to say the least.
What's good to eat?
The menu is short and simple which makes the job of choosing easier. There are no starters or sides, just eight pizzas, three sauces and two desserts. The aim is to do a few things very well rather than spreading themselves too thin.
If you only get one pizza, make it the margherita. It's rare that you eat something where the quality in every ingredient is so explicit, but here, the individual flavours of tomato, extra virgin olive oil and Toonsbridge Fior di Latte were almost shockingly good. The crust was the best we've had in Dublin (if not Ireland, if not the world) - springy and chewy but also so light from the four day fermentation the dough goes through before being put into the Stefano Ferrana pizza oven at almost 500°C. We recently heard an Italian pizzaiolo say that the mark of a good pizza is that you could eat another one, and we can't remember the last time we ate a whole pizza and didn't feel uncomfortably full.
Three of the eight pizzas are biancha (no tomatoes), and we loved the 'Funghi', which comes with grana padano, spinach, 'hen of the woods' mushrooms, fontina, garlic and sage cream. An incredible amount of flavour, but really well balanced and not overpowering.
The 'Zuccha', with Grana Padano, basil, courgette, garlic, house ricotta and salsa verde was another table silencer. Pizza bianca has a tendency to be slightly dry, due to the lack of tomato sauce, but the homemade ricotta on this one had a silky consistency and a lovely lemony tang. Salsa verde added another level of freshness, and the grana padano added a rich saltiness which really highlighted the fresh courgette. Both dips we tried were excellent, although the basil aioli was more addictive than the chipotle mayo for our money.
Dessert options consist of a chocolate 'budino' (described as a chocolate pot with sea salt but really a set custard, they just didn't think that would sounds as appealing) and vanilla ice-cream with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, with the sub-heading, 'Delicious... just trust us!' It was delicious, and one of the most simple, inspired, luxurious desserts we've had.
The chocolate pot was so rich it was only a few steps away from being solid. We have no idea what chocolate they're using in this but we need to find out. One square a day and life's daily challenges would be a lot more manageable. We've also come to the conclusion that almost all desserts are infinitely better when chunks of sea salt are added to them.
What about the drinks?
Three white and three reds by the glass and bottle, and a frizzante (basically prosecco) on tap. We tried the Sangiovese (the ultimate pizza wine) and Sauvignon Blanc which weren't particularly exciting but perfectly acceptable for pizza. The beer list has been put together with love and they have an interesting selection of cans and bottles. We tried the unfiltered lager from Ichnusa which was a crowd pleaser. There's also a decent selection of soft drinks.
And the service?
Charming if a little unconfident, but they've just opened so they can be forgiven for that. On one visit there was a mistake with a pizza but it was rectified immediately. Everyone was extremely pleasant.
We're not fans of hyperbole, but if this isn't the best pizza in Dublin right now we'll eat our smartphones. There's magic happening here and you'd be advised to go soon because once word gets out it's going to be rammed. People keep talking about how the restaurant scene in Dublin is overheated, and that we can't take any more openings. They have a point in terms of the current chef shortage, the general difficulty in recruiting hospitality staff, and the rising city rents, but Pi shows why new openings are so important - in with the great, out with the mediocre. Dublin has a lot of great pizza places, but a new bar has been set with Pi.