Pizza functions as a universal constant of sorts. The human taste palate may, perhaps, be as diverse as the animal kingdom, but no matter how critical the tongue, there’s a pizza out there ready to satiate every last tastebud it possesses. There exists no safer dish to present to a group of individuals. Despite the recent pineapple vs. no pineapple debate, the cheese filled culinary delight consistently (and almost unanimously) tends to bring people together. It’s the only food that’s used as an adjective to describe a party. Why, you ask? Simple — no food parties harder than pizza.
If dough, sauce, and cheese work as the constants in our universe metaphor, then toppings represent Chaos Theory. There’s no rhyme or reason to the what can and can’t be on the circular entrée. Infinite combinations, but they all lead to a single constant. It’s beautiful, it’s boundless, yet it’s also contained; ironic, isn’t it?
Don’t be fooled though, pizza has just as much of a capacity for evil as it does for good. When produced from incapable hands, immense anticipation and longing can be replaced with vast sadness and regret in an instant. You expected a cheese filled heaven, but were instead delivered to a cardboard-fueled inferno — by the hand of a false prophet nonetheless. Corporations such as Cici’s and Hungry Howie’s spearhead this radical movement and, through, a slow and painful indoctrination of the mind, send once innocent souls down an endless road of darkness and despair. A bad pizza may leave the consumer confused. “Did I do something wrong?” one might ask themselves. Similar to the five stages of grief, emotions run rampant for a spell. For some, acceptance never comes… How do help those people? We separate the false prophets from the Messiahs.
When I initially heard about Pieology, I was convinced that it simply wasn’t for me. Being stationed between a Brazilian Steakhouse and a Michael Kors in Huntsville’s largest outdoor mall was all it took for my judgemental animal mind to take over. As I browse their website, words like “gluten-free” and “artisan” shift my food brain from full throttle to F-off zero in a matter of seconds. Their tag line, “The study of custom pizza”, puts them in the same boat as the vaping film studies major who just got done with his arduous day at University and has now decided to spend the rest of his waking hours holding up the line at the local Starbucks to buy his overpriced Macchiato. As you might’ve surmised, I very much feature that get-off-my-lawn-with-this-new-age-hippie-psuedoscience-marketing-nonsense mentality (and rightfully so!). A friend posted a photo featuring their product and I, having some extra disposable income and a desire to experiment recreationally with every food vendor in the Huntsville area, decided to see what Pieology had to offer.
I walk in and immediately notice that the interior feels like Moe’s, but something was different… What was it that wouldn’t allow me to link the two? Like a suppressed memory, it hit me all at once — a group of (criminally) underpaid workers didn’t assail me with systematically insincere, covertly condescending welcomes as I entered the establishment. This place felt real; this was some no nonsense, no fluff, “I’m about to make you a pizza” type pizza. No, this wasn’t Moe’s at all!
Glancing over the menu fixed to the wall, I notice their promise of a completely customized 11.5′ pizza for under $9.00. Being cost sensitive individual and a natural skeptic by birth, I become wary. This place seems too good to be true; am I being lured in by a wolf in sheep’s clothing? I approach the front of the line as the first builder asks me for my choice of bread. Yeah, builder seems like a good choice of words. My eyes quickly retreat back to the wall; it’s time for me to begin my study of custom pizza. “Wheat”, I proclaim. After being scared off my high carb intake and detached from the gluten-free phenomenon, this seemed like the happy medium. For sauce, I select the traditional red, then compliment it with pesto (because, why not?). A near-perfect red and green spiral forms on top of the dough. After sprinkling mozzarella and gorgonzola on top, the first builder pushes the the baby pizza towards the next person in the relay.
The next builder is female; she queries me for meats and vegetables. I peer into the bins of toppings, Chaos Theory has arrived. All of the ingredients look fresh and appear to be of high quality. All of the basics are there, but mixed in are a couple surprises. I choose the following: mushrooms, kalamata olives, spinach, banana peppers, garlic, pepperoni, and sausage. Any other pizzeria would’ve charged at minimum a dollar per topping, yet Pieology (allegedly) has no such premium. The builder passes my pizza to her coworker who shoves it in the oven.
I confront the cashier. She asks me whether I’m eating dining in or taking my food to go. To fully understand the Pieology experience, I decide that I need to stay. She catches me off guard, asking if I’d like to bundle in a drink. Normally I stick to water at restaurants, but my unusually good mood overrules my regular habits. I hand her my credit card and sign the receipt. Just over $10.00 with a drink and tax — color me impressed. I walk over to the drink machine. As the Vitamin Water pours into my cup, I have a passing thought about 50 Cent’s career. It’s time to take a seat.
I pull out my phone to waste time as the meal cooks. After quickly boring myself with that, I turn my attention to the rest of the room. Who makes up the Pieology social pie, I wonder? From what I remember, the audience was rather diverse. Most of the customers were female; some were on break from work, others there with their parents. No ethnicity ruled the roost, either. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem like a ton of college students were soliciting there either. After a handful of minutes, a pizza arrives at my table.
“His looks good,” the ladies at the table parallel to mine whisper. I smirk a bit, at least in my mind. I look at the pizza; they’re not wrong. In the oven, every component came together to form a beautiful, boundless, yet contained chaos. After picking up the first slice, I take the first bite. The first taste takes a moment to settle in.
This is no false prophet.
Thin crust usually isn’t my thing, but here it allows the other ingredients to boldly stand out on their own. The banana peppers provided a pleasant spice, while the olives dished out a remarkable bitterness that prevented bites from feeling too similar. The ingredients all featured potent flavors, but worked in unison to compliment one another. Despite the pizza’s slim form factor, each bite was filling on its own. Halfway through, I have a moment of pause whether to save the rest for later… But it was too good — I need to go deeper.
After finishing the dish, I leave completely satisfied. Pieology provided me with a meal that I’d think about for the rest of the day. They provided me with a great tasting pizza that also didn’t make me feel like a monster by the time I finished. They provided me with a genuine experience in a world now dominated by insincerity. Powerful flavors, lean like a professional meal… essentially, it was the Super Saiyan 2 of pizza world. I’m an adamant believer of visiting food places once a week at most, yet I found myself returning four days later. I needed to know if my first encounter was a fluke. It wasn’t — Pieology proved me wrong.
Pieology offers a great product at a great value. They exist as a New Age company, but do so in actions rather than words. You play the role of architect, and the builders are committed to making your project great, no matter how tragically flawed it may be in design. The atmosphere, while pleasant, never feels pretentious. Truth be told, you couldn’t ask for a better lunch pizza.