Restaurant review: Pie’s Gourmet Pizza Bistro

From the July 19, 2012 edition

Bill Fugitt is like the Flying Dutchman of chefs. The obviously talented guy has a resume that, while impressive, reads like a cruise ship itinerary. There have been stops in France, Napa Valley, Washington, D.C., and, locally, Muirfield Village, MoJoe Lounge Downtown and the top toque spot at Rigsby’s Kitchen.

Recently, Fugitt dropped anchor in the unlikely port of Reynoldsburg to captain Pie’s, a self-described “gourmet pizza bistro.” After dining at Pie’s, my main regret is that Fugitt didn’t dock in my own Clintonville neighborhood — because now I have to sail 25 minutes to enjoy his engaging food.

The first clue that Pie’s isn’t like anything in its area: It occupies a tree-shaded, neo-colonial white brick house with a cute patio. Clue number two: The seasonally committed menu is rife with descriptions like “local” and “housemade.” Number three: A proud, well-trained, jeans- and black button-down-clad crew conducts all transactions via iPad.

If it’s too hot for the patio, I suggest you skip past the charm-challenged main dining room and instead eat in the atrium facing the open kitchen — or opt for the attractive upstairs bar. Nudgingly called “Pie in the Sky,” the pub offers free (and addictive) snacks like spiced and candied macadamia nuts and lemony popcorn.

Wherever you sit, you’ll have solid microbrew ($5-$7), wine (several $5 glasses) and cocktail options ($7-$8 and created by local libation star Cris Dehlavi). The shaken potables include a sweet margarita (with housemade orange-thyme agave nectar and Himalayan sea salt), interesting peach sangria (with housemade puree, cinnamon and riesling) and an inspired, citrusy and garden-y Bloody Mary (with muddled heirloom tomatoes instead of tomato juice).

Of course pizzas ($7-$12) are featured here. They are feeds-one-sized (or a serves-two appetizer) and arrive on yeasty and softish crusts that puff out thickly along spot-charred and irregular perimeters. They’re bready affairs flavored by impressive toppings like butter-poached lobster, duck confit, house-cured meats, housemade mozzarella, local cheeses and local veggies. While I generally liked these distinct pies (especially the Pepperizzo, with tangy salami topped by a paper-thin apple/fennel salad, and the chunky Vegetable), I actually got more revved up by other selections such as these:

Summer Salad ($8): An earthy and pretty assembly of vivid, just-harvested vegetables like real-deal peas, garnet-colored carrots, French radishes and yellow tomatoes tossed with chef-grown lettuces aroused by a light, lemony dressing plus a veggie hummus-like smear of celery root puree

House-made Burrata ($10): Impressive. A large, milky mass of warm, mozzarella-like cheese generously plated with contrasting, vibrant, deeply flavored roasted onions and tomatoes plus a salty pancetta wafer

Pancetta Wrapped Dates ($8): A must! Sweet, salty, meaty and mildly funky charred thumb-sized wonders anchored by garlicky and homemade sausage and served with a light cheese sauce

Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts ($7): Irresistible and attractively crinkly yet chewy cruciferous vegetables darkly caramelized into sweetness and enriched with a garlic and parmesan aioli

Pan-roasted Cod ($20): A gently crusted piece of nice fish draped over beautiful buttered vegetables like split baby zucchini and purple fingerling potatoes. The elegantly simple, ingredient-driven presentation received panache from a baba ganoush-like spinach and artichoke puree.

Strawberry Shortcake ($9): Thick, buttery, crispy and oversized cookie-like shortbread pucks formed a sorta double-decker sandwich with a basil-kissed strawberry sauce inside. Topped by barely sweet (if not intensely creamy) homemade strawberry ice cream, it was a fun-to-eat, grown-up treat.