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Central Arkansas has almost an overabundance of good, independent pizza joints — how Domino’s and Papa John’s stay in business, I don’t know — and the newest member of the ranks, Pierre’s Gourmet Pizza in North Little Rock, holds its own.
Michael Ayers opened the restaurant in November in a small, nicely decorated storefront on JFK Boulevard, just north of McCain. It’s easy to miss, but worth slowing down to make sure you don’t.
Ayers is a veteran of the pizza business, and he said it’s been a goal to open his own place for a dozen years. (Pierre is a childhood nickname that stuck, earned when friends caught hime kissing a girl.) When the opportunity arose, he and his wife, Veronica, and an uncle sat down to develop the 11 “gourmet” specialty pizzas, some based on recipes the uncle — who also had experience in pizza restaurants — had created.
The results make it clear that Ayers likes his meat — three of the 11 are vegetarian, but the rest feature meat, meat and more meat. The Pierre’s Favorite — the restaurant’s version of a supreme — includes pepperoni, Canadian bacon, salami, beef and Italian sausage, in addition to lots of veggies. It’s also possible to order a traditional pizza with the toppings of your choice, although that choice is limited: pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon and extra cheese. We didn’t ask, but given that they obviously have other toppings in the restaurant for the gourmet pizzas, we’d be surprised if that list wasn’t negotiable.
There are also four salads — we liked the sound of the Grand Antipasto ($6.95), which comes with salami, pepperoni and artichoke hearts — and half a dozen subs, including a meatball and a veggie.
We were the only dine-in customers on our visit, and had a friendly conversation with Ayers, who clearly loves what he does. It’s an order-at-the-counter place, informal, and the food is brought to your table when it’s ready.
We started with an order of garlic cheese sticks ($4.50), which were thick and soft with plenty of cheese, and unfortunately tasted good enough that we filled up on them. Our only suggestion would be to serve the side of marinara sauce hot instead of cold; it’s great sauce, but we didn’t care for the contrast of warm bread and cold tomatoes.
For the main course, we went with the calzone ($7.95) and an 8-inch chicken Alfredo pizza ($8.25). The calzone is listed as coming with pepperoni and sausage, but we do know that’s negotiable — we left the sausage out, and Ayers offered to double the pepperoni instead.
The calzone was very good — a nice thick crust, well browned, with a ton of ricotta and mozzarella that gave it plenty of flavor. Again, we would have preferred the side of extra sauce to be hot, but it was tasty enough to make the temperature issue worth ignoring. Unfortunately we could only get through half of it, full as we were on garlic cheese bread.
Our companion, who’s sampled his share of Alfredo pizzas over the years, said Pierre’s was excellent. The crust is thin but soft — not our companion’s favorite style, but he didn’t mind it here — and although he said the Alfredo sauce wasn’t homemade, it was good enough for pizza.
There aren’t any desserts on the menu, but that’s OK — we wouldn’t have had room anyway. But we’re looking forward to trying some of the other specialty pizzas. Among the choices: the Tuscan Trio (barbecue chicken, olive oil, mozzarella, red onions and cilantro), the Demor Galor (pepperoni, Canadian bacon, salami, beef, Italian sausage, breakfast bacon) the Taste of Greece (tomato sauce or olive oil/garlic glaze, mozzarella and tomatoes) and the La Vegetarian (tomatoes, onions, green peppers, black olives, mushrooms, tomato sauce and mozzarella on a wheat crust).
Delivery and carry-out are also available.
Pierre’s Gourmet Pizza
4905 JFK Blvd.
North Little Rock
Trust owner Michael “Pierre” Ayers and go with one of the gourmet specialty pizzas, some of which have unusual combinations of toppings, or design your own. The crust is thin and soft, the tomato sauce light and a little chunky, with a great flavor. Salads and subs round out the menu.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., closed Sunday.
Credit cards accepted; no alcohol; delivery available.