Local Restaurant Week kicked off Monday, October 20th, and our first stop was PI Craft: Fast Fired Fresh Pizza
Right off the highway on Niagara Falls Boulevard, this place has caught my eye a few times. PI Craft is relatively new and simple looking from the outside, and once I saw it was participating in Local Restaurant Week, well, it just had to be on the list.
PI Craft has a robust website that explains what they’re all about, their menu, and their specials.
Pi Craft’s mission is to bring healthy, good conscious, real food: pizza, focaccia sandwiches, and chopped salads, to our guests.
Can’t argue with that. PI Craft boosts about their crust made from 4 different flours and falling somewhere in the middle between European thin crust and American bread style pizza. Their second touting item is their Focaccia-wich sandwiches made with house made focaccia flat-bread. Well, enough said, they’ve got me! So how was it?
PI looks awesome on the inside. It’s casual with a kind of blend of Chipotle’s pick-and-choose bar layout and plenty of bench seating. It’s new, clean, and light, definitely a cool place to hang out.
It was 8:00 pm on a Monday evening (PI Craft closes at 9:00 pm), and the staff weren’t exactly alive. Or welcoming. Well, one girl was, but she was at the register ringing out those in front of us. After a minute or two (which did allow me to take a few pictures) one of the glazed-eyed workers made eye contact with us and I asked where we were supposed to order. We were in the correct spot; directly in front of the menu. Pleasantly, the menu dedicates about 1/6th of itself to vegetarian options, and I was really leaning towards the Veggie Focaccia-wich. My husband ordered the Ham Jam Focaccia-wich, and the Local Restaurant Week deal included 2 fountain drinks and an order of Dessert Hot Sticks for $20.14 before tax.
We placed or orders and moved down the line to pay the pleasant cashier. Our 2 Focaccia-wiches slowly moved through the conveyer brick oven and beautifully toasted in around 5 to 6 minutes, and the Hot Sticks cooked in about 3 minutes. The guy who took our order asked if we wanted caramel or house made icing dip for our dessert sticks, and we went with the house made icing. We cashed out, took the bag of dessert hot sticks and icing, filled our drinks at the Johnnie Ryan fountain station, and sat at one of the tables. My husband grabbed our sandwiches at the counter once those were done and we dug in.
The sandwiches are actually quite huge. The sandwich filling is loaded on and they skimp on nothing. I opened the foil wrapper on my Veggie Focaccia-wich to find overflowing chopped roasted veggies such as onions, yellow squash, zucchini, peppers (but not overpowering), and corn, topped with fresh halved grape tomatoes that had begun to cook from the residual heat of the sandwich (perfect!), grilled mushrooms, light mozzarella cheese, hummus, tapenade, and a basil/balsamic drizzle to finish it off.
The focaccia flatbread itself wasn’t overly greasy, and while it was hard to keep together, it didn’t necessarily fall apart in my hands either. Somewhere in the middle. It was robust, but light and airy. It certainly did have a homemade quality to it that raised this focaccia flatbread above all others. The flavors were really good and the bread was perfectly proportioned to the amount of veggies in the sandwich: enough to balance it, but not over bready like so many places make sandwiches. All in all, I’d compare it to Corner Bakery Cafe’s California Grille Panini, only better in every way.
My husband’s Ham Jam Focaccia-wich looked even better. His was made with smoked ham, braised pork, caramelized onions, white cheddar cheese, halved grape tomatoes, stone-ground mustard, and finished with aioli and fresh arugula after it came out of the stone oven conveyer. A bad time to be vegetarian.
Once we finished with the sandwiches (aside from a bowl of Panera’s Autumn Squash soup, this was the only thing I had eaten all day so I was quite hungry), we moved onto the Dessert Hot Sticks and homemade icing. The homemade icing was a good choice.
The sticks, like the Focaccia-wiches, weren’t over greasy. Hardly anything here had actually been greasy, but just oiled enough to not dry out. They were lightly seasoned with cinnamon and the dough, oh my gosh, the dough! I see why they boast about it so much. Once it’s in front of you, the whole “somewhere in the middle” between American and European makes sense. And the flavor! The dough actually has real flavor that hasn’t been mixed in, but naturally comes through in the not-overprocessed flour. It actually makes a huge difference in the quality of the experience. PI Craft’s pizza isn’t just a pizza joint for convenience, it’s a pizza joint for the experience of good food.
Between my husband and myself, we finished that entire meal. He had a Kraft Mac and Cheese bowl for lunch, of similar proportion to my bowl of soup, otherwise, we probably would have taken something to go. I’m not certain if the soft dessert sticks would have kept, or the Focaccia-wiches would have reheated–plus that would have just been a mess–but everything was fantastic. Will I go back? Oh yeah, I’m totally going back for their Veggie Pizza after tasting that dough. And the Focaccia-wich was most certainly worth the try.
So if you’re shopping along the Boulevard and Mexican doesn’t sound good, head towards the Interstate and enjoy the special dough and fresh ingredients at PI Craft at 1750 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Tonawanda, NY.
Read our PI Craft review on Yelp!