New restaurant lets diners create their own pizza
MANILA – A newly opened restaurant along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City has been attracting long lines for its customizable pizzas which diners can truly call their own.
Project Pie is a concept by James Markham, who is said to have pioneered the assembly line style of ordering pizza (think Chipotle, only pizzas) in the United States. After putting up branches in Las Vegas and San Diego, the brand decided to expand to the Philippines with the help of the Prieto family, which owns the local franchise of the pizza chain Shakey’s.
The Philippines is no stranger to the create-your-own-pizza concept, with almost every pizza restaurant in the metro offering it as an option. Project Pie, however, takes the idea to the next level – customers choose the type of sauce they prefer and can have as many toppings as they want for a fixed price.
At P285, diners can choose to have any (or all) of the toppings on their nine-inch pizza – cheese (gorgonzola, ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella and feta), meat and seafood (pepperoni, Italian sausage, crumbled meatballs, grilled chicken, Canadian bacon, prosciutto, bacon, anchovies), vegetables and herbs (red onions, green bell peppers, jalapenos, roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, cilantro, tomatoes, black olives, artichokes, garlic, basil, rosemary), and even some dessert items like cranberries, bananas, strawberries, cranberries, mangoes, candied walnuts, Nutella and peanut butter.
“The biggest selling point is the price,” Project Pie Philippines general manager Ramon Martelino told a select group of food writers. “I mean, you can put anything for the same price. No one in the country today [can do that] unless it’s a P3,500 buffet. Nobody in the country today would allow you to put anything you want at the same price point.”
“Obviously we’ll be copied, I’m sure, soon,” he added. “But as long as we’ll be able to sustain the unique selling proposition, I think we’ll last.”
Since Project Pie does not accept reservations, expect to wait for several minutes to get a table during lunch hour, especially on weekends. Project Pie Philippines’ people development and brand marketing head, Jill Ilagan, said it is best to arrive early to get a table, or dine at the restaurant during off-peak hours such as late in the afternoon.
“If they’re coming in a big group, they should come a bit early so they can have the place to themselves,” Ilagan said. “We open at 10 a.m. every day.”
How it works
Project Pie is a fast casual pizza concept which means customers line up, order their own food, pay, eat and leave.
Upon arriving at the counter, a staff member would place a piece of dough in a machine where it is pressed into a thin, nine-inch crust. She will then ask for the type of sauce – red or “white,” which only contains olive oil.
The pizza will then be brought to another staff member, who will ask for the type of cheese you want on your pizza. You can choose one, two, all of them, or none at all. Feel free to ask for a double serving of a type of cheese, or “half-half,” or two combinations on two halves of the pizza.
The next stations involve choosing the other toppings. Just like in the previous station, do not hesitate to ask for a double serving – it’s part of the deal.
At the end of the counter, you are asked if you want other to order other items on the menu such as salad and dessert pizzas, as well as drinks.
Martelino has already estimated the amount of time a customer usually spends at the counter. “We press [the dough] in seven seconds, we build in around five minutes, and we bake in two minutes,” he said.
Those who are not feeling creative may choose from Project Pie’s pizza combinations, which are numbered from 1 to 7. Just say No. 1 if you want a classic cheese pie, and No. 7 if you only want prosciutto, caramelized onions, mozzarella and parmesan, for instance.
“Usually, the experience is they get a salad and a pizza, or a pizza and a dessert pizza. They get No. 7 or No. 2 (red sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella, Italian sausage, garlic and crumbled meatballs), No. 5 (mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, parmesan, cracked black pepper, olive oil, garlic, fresh chopped basil) also. And the one with chicken and barbecue sauce,” Martelino said.
“We also see a lot of people having beer with their pizza,” he added.
The charm of Project Pie lies in the customers’ freedom to choose whatever they want to have on their pizza, giving them a personalized dining experience.
No more fighting for that last slice or arguing on what flavor to order – while the nine-inch pizza can easily be shared by two, it is generally meant to be consumed by one person, who usually decides what goes on top of the savory pie.
With a setup like this, it’s hard to be disappointed with your order – unless it’s as odd as pizza with only mozzarella and banana slices, shared Ilagan, citing a previous experience with one of their customers.
“But our staff will always tell you if they think it’s not a good idea to combine certain ingredients,” she said.
Regardless of the toppings, the pizzas always come out crispy and very tasty, and surprisingly filling. While there are plenty of combinations worth trying, my favorite would have to be double gorgonzola, prosciutto, cranberries and walnuts. It’s like heaven on a pizza crust.
Still, Project Pie still has plenty of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to the crust since it tends to dry out when it gets cold. Save for the bacon which tends to be a bit too salty, the rest of the ingredients are good, considering the price of the pizza.
515 Shaw, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.