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PieWorks as good as it ever was

by Brian Clarey

The 3 Cheese 2mato pie at PieWorks is still one of the tastierst circles around (photo by Michelle Lanteri).

I have a history with PieWorks.

When I first moved to Greensboro in the sweltering summer of 2000, my mother in-law owned a health food store called Herbs Instead in the same Lawndale Avenue strip mall as the original PieWorks, which had once been a chain but was by this time the only location in the city — or anywhere else, as far as I know.

My wife worked at the health food store, and because we were at the time a one-car family, I spent some time at the intersection of Lawndale and Pisgah Church every day, driving her to work and picking her up, sometimes stopping by for lunch.

I was new in town, and the guys who worked at PieWorks were some of the first I met here, chief among them Matty Sheets, who now fronts his own band called the Blockheads and participates in a number of other art and music projects, and Mikey Roohan, who now can be heard on “The Howard Stern Show.” At the time they were in a band called Deviled Eggs, which made up for its lack of proficiency with genuine enthusiasm.

Because it was cheap, because I love pizza and because it was right there, my wife, our newborn son and I ended up eating at PieWorks at least once a week. Sometimes more.

Now PieWorks is once again a proper chain, with locations in Louisiana and Mississippi. And the Lawndale store has moved to impressive new digs a mile or so away.

In its new location, down New Garden Road off Battleground, the concept is still the same: a build-your-own-pizza deal with lists of crusts, sauces, cheeses, spices and toppings.

And though I am a pizza purist, I always liked the notion of creating my own pie. Shrimp, bacon and peas with Alfredo sauce and pepper jack on wheat crust. Anchovies, mushroom, onion and beef with provolone. Fresh tomatoes, garlic butter and mozzarella. Like that.

I still like to do that, as it turns out. But PieWorks has expanded its menu a bit, with more salads like the Malibleu Beach salad with granny smith apples, raisins, bleu cheese and walnuts. There are baked wings and a spinach-artichoke dip. And a slew of toasted sandwiches are now on the menu, including a muffaletta that, because I am a purist, have yet to taste.

No, I come for the pizza. And on my last visit, after I tried the spinach-artichoke dip — excellent! — and took down a Caesar salad, which remains a very good example of the form, I tucked into a personal 3Cheese 2mato lunch pie. This is a signature pie with fresh tomatoes as well as tomato sauce (though you can substitute Alfredo sauce, which is a nice change of pace) and basil, and also a choice of cheeses. I generally go with mozzarella, yellow cheddar and Romano. It’s a nice-sized pie, perfect when paired with a salad for lunch, though heavier forks might want to add an appetizer of breadsticks, which are fabulous and come with a chosen trio of dipping sauces.

One of the things I like about PieWorks pizzas is the crust, specifically the white crust as opposed to the wheat. It’s light and airy, with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and a hint of garlic butter. It bakes up nicely: crisp where need be, chewy in all the right places. The breadsticks are made the same way.

On my last visit — my first in a good, long while — I found that PieWorks pizza is as good as it ever was. And though my friends no longer work there, it still filled me with an appropriate sense of nostalgia.

wanna go?

PieWorks 1941 New Garden Road; Greensboro 336.282.9003; www.pieworks.com

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