You can't miss the oddly named Pizza Pie-er. Its neon green pizza logo (which looks an awful lot like a slice of lime) leaps out from the worn Inman Square surroundings. Inside, it is bright and clean with white tiling and comfy new booths. The staff is friendly, the place is sparkling, and if you don't mind a view of the adjacent Hess station, and are willing to put up with traffic noise, there are tables under umbrellas with soft rock on outdoor speakers for al fresco diners. These are all nice touches — but let's cut to the chase. The pizza? Some of it is good, none of it is outstanding. But arrive with a pack of hungry, picky eaters and this place may be your dream come true.
Pizza Pie-er began in Providence, near the Brown University campus, in the late 1980s. Owner Bahman Jalili ran a second Pizza Pie-er at 182 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston for 10 years before closing that shop and moving to the Inman Square location. A third is slated to open in South Boston in September.
Customization is the watchword at Pie-er, with 11 sauces and 4 kinds of crust, all available in personal size, medium, and large ($4.99-$27.24). We are surprised how much we like all of the crusts, from the slightly sweet veggie, which incorporates a melange of chopped vegetables into the dough, to a nutty whole-grain (whole wheat, flax, millet, oat flakes), as well as regular and thin crust (lower-carb) varieties. Unfortunately, the crust loses its tender-crisp chew when smooshed into a personal-size pan, so we prefer the larger pies.
We build our own from the crust up, choosing from the sauces and toppings. We enjoy the earthy pizza al noci ($15.69 for a medium) with a whole-wheat crust, rich walnut sauce and cheese blend, and sliced mushrooms, spinach, and herbs. White vegetarian ($15.85 for a medium) satisfies veggie lovers with garlicky oil, plenty of cheese, and a heap of mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
The pesto pizza ($13.84 for a medium), a simple blend of cheese with pesto sauce and sliced fresh tomatoes, is dramatically improved with a healthy shake of salt. The brimp ($19.14 for a medium) satisfies a guilty pleasure a la Olive Garden, with a creamy Alfredo sauce topped with broccoli and shrimp that are perfectly cooked. For meat lovers, there is the meatichoke ($12.69 for a medium), with meatballs and artichoke hearts, and the option of adding chicken, chorizo, prosciutto, bacon, or sausage to any pie ($1-$2.45).
Hot wings ($5.99 for a small) are a pleasant surprise (we are always on the prowl for decent wings) and come out hot and crispy with buttery Buffalo sauce. Greek salad ($6.50) is fresh, if a little boring with iceberg, olives, tomatoes, feta, and Newman's Own dressing. Couldn't they make their own?
Overall, toppings are fresh and plentiful, the crust usually crisp and chewy. The one unforgivable sin: the house tomato sauce. On one visit, it's bland. On another, it tastes like watered-down tomato paste, which is why none of our recommendations are for pies with traditional red sauce. This is something they need to fix yesterday.
Pizza Pie-er, which opened in March, is still working out the kinks. If they get the sauce right, they could be on to something. In a group where someone wants low-carb, another is vegetarian, someone is a health nut, and the fourth is a meat lover, there's a pie for everyone. That's no small feat.
Catherine Smart can be reached at email@example.com.