“Design. Build. Eat.” This was the unique dining concept of Project Pie founder and chief executive James Markham when he started his fast-casual restaurant in the United States two years ago.
With the tagline “Everday Artisan Pizza,” it allows diners to create their own pizzas by choosing what goes on top of it—beginning with cheese, followed by different kinds of meats and vegetable, and finally with spices and herbs.
In July 2013, Filipinos were introduced to this concept when the first Project Pie opened along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. Not only did the store become a first in the local food scene, it also officially marked Project Pie’s very first overseas venture.
Six months later, the brand was so well received that it opened three more branches in strategic locations around Metro Manila. These were in Alabang, Eastwood, and at Bluebay Walk, the up-and-coming food and fashion district in Pasay City and nearby Manila.
To officially launch the Bluebay Walk branch, a grand block party was held on January 31. Free artisan pizzas, a drive-in movie screening of award-winning Cinemalaya film Sana Dati, musical performances featuring Hidden Nikki and Up Dharma Down, and a fireworks display were laid out to give Project Pie loyalists the time of their lives.
Aptly dubbed “Year of the Artisan Pizza,” the event was celebrated in time with Chinese New Year.
“This is our way of thanking all of you for a wonderful 2013 and for making Project Pie one of the best restaurants in town. As we welcome you to a better 2014, we will continue to share what our fast-casual dining is all about, by giving you our guests the opportunity to choose what you want, how to have it, and where to have it,” announced Cito Martelino, Project Pie Philippines country manager.
Pizza and progress
In an interview with The Manila Times, Martelino shared the things that make Project Pie click to the Pinoy’s palette.
“It’s allowing people to make their own artisan pizzas for a reasonable price. A person can choose to put all the toppings on his pizza and still pay P285,” said Martelino.
Project Pie has five types of cheeses namely gorgonzolla, ricotta, Parmesan, feta and mozzarella. For the meat toppings, there’s pepperoni, Italian sausage, crumbled meatballs, grilled chicken, Canadian bacon, prosciutto and bacon. For vegetables and spices, there are red onions, caramelized onions, cilantro, tomatoes, black olives, garlic, pesto, artichokes, freshly chopped basil and rosemary, green bell peppers, roasted red pepper and Jalapeños. Completing the 29 ingredients are mushrooms, anchovies and pineapple.
It’s really up to the diner whether to go all-meat or vegetarian. And besides these custom made pizzas, there are also seven pre-made pizzas, as well as dessert pizzas featuring, Nutella!
The country manager observed that Project Pie’s patrons usually go by a “spur of the moment” feeling when they make their pizzas. They think they know what they usually want, until they see what they can actually have.
Besides offering “pizza freedom” to diners, Martelino takes pride in giving them an overall experience, beginning with the store interiors, which were patterned exactly after the US outlets.
He noted that diners usually line up for 30 minutes on a regular day to submit their order forms, which list their chosen toppings. But in two to three minutes, their pizza will be served hot and fresh from oven to table.
“What’s more important to us is seeing people having fun whenever they dine here at Project Pie,” Martelino added. He believes they are achieving their goal because the hype over Project Pie has been overwhelming even without much marketing effort.
“We never had proper advertising. It’s the people who advertised for us in social media by sharing photos and stories about Project Pie online. And since we started, we’ve already served over 85,000 pizzas,” Martelino proudly shared.
Finally, Martelino is confident that by holding Project Pie’s first official public event on a very auspicious day, it is poised to gain a bigger and stronger following. “As we say here at Project Pie: ‘Pizza in progress, progress in pizza,’” he ended.