HALIFAX– Halifax pizza lovers, rejoice! The famous “Pictou County style” pizza is coming to the HRM…at least temporarily.
Brothers Tommy Chapman and Drea Cougias own Acropole Pizza in Truro, and for years have seen customers ordering from their shop to bring pies across the province, and even further.
“There’s probably 12 people a week that say they’re taking the food back to New Brunswick; Miramichi, and Moncton, and Saint John,” Chapman marvelled. “There’s always people, every day, that come in a and say, ‘I’m taking these to Halifax’ or ‘I’m taking these to Sackville.’ So we thought, wouldn’t it be cool, or wouldn’t it be funny if you could do a delivery to Halifax?”
So that’s what they did.
In February, Chapman and Cougias cooked up 43 pre-ordered pizzas (Champan wanted to stop at 40, but let a few customers with birthdays twist his arm), packed them into foil-lined boxes, popped them into delivery bags, and made the hour-long trip to Dartmouth.
Chapman’s biggest fear was that the pizzas would have cooled down too much. “I want them to still be warm, so if someone takes it out of the box and has a slice right there, they’ll be happy,” Chapman said.
“It’s one thing if you’re going to deliver it to an area and people are expecting it to be cold. It’s another thing if you’re driving it there warm and fresh.”
Despite his fears, the initial reviews have some very happy customers. Chapman says several customers commented that the pizza did not disappoint.
So what is it about Pictou-style pizza that has garnered these loyal fans? It’s all in the sauce.
While the exact ingredients of the sauce are a strict family secret, Chapman says the spicy brown base comes from only using fresh vegetables.
“It’s all fresh vegetables used in the sauce, there’s no onion salt or anything like that. Regular table salt is the only preservative used in the sauce. It takes roughly about three hours to make it,” Champan said.
The brothers also make fresh dough every day and use local meats like Brothers Pepperoni from Halifax. The end result is a spicy, savoury pizza that has customers driving hours for a slice.
“The big thing now is everyone is moving out west to work; a lot of the younger people are moving away,” Chapman said. “When they come home, there have been people who have stopped into the shop to grab a couple of slices, and they’ve said ‘don’t tell my mother I stopped in here first before going home.’”
But the delivery to Halifax isn’t just to satisfy some pizza cravings. It’s a chance for the brothers to scope out the market, and the potential interest. When Chapman first proposed the idea, he offered it as a one-time deal. But quickly, he was overwhelmed with customers orders and realised he may have stumbled onto a viable expansion.
Out of the 22 people who ordered pizzas on that first delivery, Chapman says half a dozen have reordered. It’s enough of an interest that Chapman has added regular long-distance deliveries through March to Sackville, Dartmouth, and Amherst.
“If we go to Amherst now and go to Amherst again in April, and we get twice as many going to Amherst that time, we say ‘ok, let’s look at this market.’”
Chapman knows his pizza is popular with folks who grew up in Pictou County. But if he starts getting orders from Halifax, and can convert some of the market, then a possible franchise in the city is on the table. But before they go that far, there are options for more regular deliveries.
With the initial success of the long-distance delivery, Chapman and Cougias were able to weather the traditional post-holiday slump of the restaurant world. Generally, January and February are slow for businesses, as customers are recovering from the holidays and not spending as much. But instead of cutting hours or laying off staff, the deliveries have offered the brothers more options for expansions.
“I’m actually looking at the possibility of hiring a driver… to take a delivery to the city,” Chapman said. “There’s that potential. We’re still looking into it, but we could say it doesn’t have to be just Saturdays.”