Address: 1211 University Blvd., Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
It may be the new kid on the block, but it’s already found its place.
Pieology, which opened its doors only two months ago, is the most recent food development on The Strip in Tuscaloosa. This particular section of University Boulevard, located directly beside the University of Alabama campus, exemplifies a classic college-town hodgepodge of cute clothing shops, university-themed merchandise stores, and, perhaps most importantly, many cheap and delicious dining options for students. Amidst the disparate and delightful array (everything from Thai to Tex-Mex) crammed into these few blocks, Pieology is at first hard to distinguish. It occupies a tiny piece of storefront, bordered by a cell phone quick-repair shop and a live music bar, its presence designated only by the brightly lit sign above the door.
However, this diminutive outer appearance conceals the full effect of the establishment within. The Tuscaloosa Pieology marks one location in the small but growing chain founded by Carl Chang in 2011, and while do-it-yourself pizzerias are not uncommon, this one stands out. According to Chang, he aspired to found not just a pizza restaurant, but rather an “environment that created inspiration” (Schlossberg), and the Tuscaloosa location illustrates the resounding success of this goal—especially in a college town. For almost any student, good food and encouraging words are two of the most tried-and-true solutions to the stresses of college life, and Pieology offers both. The custom-made pizzas, with their perfectly crispy, fresh-baked crusts, bubbling sauce, and personalized toppings, present delicious variations to suit any mood, and the restaurant’s optimistic, cheerful ambience is a treat in itself.
Ordering a meal at Pieology is both exciting and easy: in the words of an employee, “It’s like Subway for pizza.” Patrons step up to the counter, where they choose their desired crust, sauce, cheeses, and toppings. Employees assemble the pizzas as the customers watch, and, after the five-minute baking period, deliver the pizzas to the tables.
Through thoughtful organization (tables spread across the main floor, as well as tucked along the back walls and hallway), Pieology comfortably accommodates many more patrons than its cramped exterior appearance might suggest. Sleek, streamlined silver chairs gleam alongside unassumingly lovely yellow wood tables, the combination simultaneously exemplifying a classy modernism and a homey coziness. This aesthetic is well suited to the college students who form the majority of the clientele: while Pieology boasts a cool, modern vibe, it simultaneously feels warm and inviting: the tabletop could be the one from your dinner table at home.
This welcoming mood is further developed by the decor and the ambience. In keeping with founder Chang’s desire for an inspirational atmosphere, the walls showcase an array of uplifting and motivating quotes. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Confucius, and Aristotle comprise just a few of the people whose words illuminate the walls of Pieology, and the inclusion of a Bear Bryant maxim and the occasional “Roll Tide” extends a nod to local tradition as well. The restaurant is well lit, the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front allow sunshine to pour in throughout the day, and the employees’ attitudes are just as bright as the restaurant itself. They are prompt, welcoming, and, most of all, kind.
I recently dined at Pieology, and I can honestly say that it was the most pleasant restaurant experience I have had in the past year. Though I felt slightly nervous at first (my overly soft-spoken demeanor doesn’t usually mix well with do-it-yourself restaurants), my trepidation vanished the moment that I stepped up to the counter. There, a clerk presented a quick, friendly, and engaged explanation of both the custom topping bar and the traditional pizza menu.
Though all the standard offerings (ranging from Margherita to barbecued chicken) looked enticing, I felt adventurous, so I opted for the full do-it-yourself experience. After choosing the classic white crust with a garnish of herb butter, I watched attentively as the employee began to prepare my meal. She deftly flattened and shaped the dough, adorned it with graceful swirls of the traditional “house red” sauce that I requested, and then added toppings as I made my way down the line, inspecting and selecting as I went. The finished product featured three types of cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta), olives, tomatoes, Canadian bacon, and basil.
I paid just over ten dollars for the pizza and a soda, sat down at a table, and, five minutes later, my fresh-cooked dinner arrived. I let it cool for a few minutes, casting admiring gazes upon it in the meantime, and then I took the first bite. The creation was exquisite—truly a combination to remember for future visits. The deep golden crust, rich, yeasty, and infused with subtle hints of the herb butter, offers the perfect base, and atop this foundation rests a generous layer of sauce, bursting with the tangy fragrance of fresh tomatoes. The smooth, sweet ricotta cheese is punctuated by the occasional saltiness of an olive, while the fragrant basil and juicy tomatoes mingle with the savory Canadian bacon in a satisfying juxtaposition of mild and sharp flavors. The crust crunches pleasingly on the edges, yet it remains ever-so-slightly soft and chewy beneath the warm sauce and cheese in the center, adding depth of texture as well as taste.
While I savored this delicious medley of flavors, I also made my way through the several walls’ worth of uplifting quotations. (English major that I am, I was happy to find many of my favorite authors represented there.) These messages of hope, perseverance, and inspiration complemented the dining experience, offered some welcome encouragement, and left my mind feeling just as contented as my stomach. I was thoroughly satisfied with my visit to Pieology, and I intend to return soon—probably many more times.
Pieology is a welcome addition to the Strip, providing countless fresh, diverse, and flavorful pizza options in an incredibly appealing setting. With its blend of quick and welcoming service, high quality food, and an invigorating and inspirational atmosphere—an ambience that almost bears more resemblance to a friendly neighborhood coffee shop than to a traditional pizzeria—Pieology does more than just fill a pre-existing niche in the University of Alabama food scene. It creates a category all its own.
Schlossberg, Mallory. “The Fastest Growing Restaurant in America Should Terrify Traditional Pizza Chains.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc., 25 June 2015. Web. 21 March 2016.