Pig Ate My Pizza, the new restaurant from the madcap crew behind the extremely popular (and soon to return) Travail in Robbinsdale, is indubitably fun. Paintings of pigs (including swine-themed interpretations of a famous image from Pulp Fiction and the cover to Nirvana’s Nevermind)? Fun. Pink cloth napkins? Fun. Chefs singing along with cheesy ‘80s tunes (“Take on me, take me on”)? Fun. Kids dancing in a fur-bedecked booth? Fun. Complimentary pre-dessert “Bacon Cracker Jacks” and “Flintstone Push-Up Shake?” Fun. Everything in this place is fun.
That includes the food — as playful, enjoyable, and comforting as the atmosphere. Along with their signature pizzas, Pig offers a selection of both cold and hot appetizers and first courses (including a pasta of the day). While we were tempted to try the “Chi Chi’s & Guac” ($5), “Hog Tots” ($6), or “Salt & Pepper Nugs” ($5), we saved our appetite for pizza… and dessert, always dessert.
Some chefs who mess around with molecular gastronomy and novel flavor combinations, trying to come off as whimsical, end up outsmarting themselves. They disappoint their customers with cute, generally expensive food that just doesn’t taste very good. But others, such as the Pig / Travail crew (Doug Flicker at Piccolo also springs to mind), skillfully blend creativity, restraint, and technique to produce truly innovative, delicious cuisine.
The “Mussels from Brussels” pizza ($12) is a great example. Rather than a traditional sauce, a deep red mix of diced piquillo peppers, olive oil, and sour raisins is spread over a hand-tossed, beautifully simple, chewy Neapolitan crust. Along with the titular shellfish and Brussels sprouts, the base is topped with crumbles of chorizo and puffs of finely grated manchego. If that wasn’t enough, the dish comes with a side of mussels broth for crust dipping. Each of the carefully prepared elements comes together to produce a multi-layered, balanced, and surprising flavor extravaganza. It’s an alluring, artistic, and damn tasty pizza pie.
Two other pizzas were less inventive, but only slightly less delicious. The “Piggy” ($14) is just what the name suggests: pork, pork, and more pork, piled high on a golden brown brioche crust and topped with melted cheese. Salty pepperoni, bacon, prosciutto, and cubes of ham are heaped onto buttery, sweet brioche. Although tasty, the “Piggy” was just a little too rich and heavy, and because the crust sucked up the sauce, it got a tad dry. We’d love to try this pizza on the thin Neapolitan crust.
The “Margarita” ($11) is classic simplicity: marinara, fresh mozzarella made in house, and basil on a Neapolitan crust. To put its own spin on this traditional nosh, Pig infuses the crust with garlic oil and tops the pie with fresh, tender micro-basil and a drizzle of basil oil (a bright distillation of the usual limp leaves). Our only complaint about this dish — and it’s a minor one — is that the sauce is too subtle. It’d be great if it really stood up to the other flavors.
Pig’s hijinks reach new heights with dessert. Composed tableside, the dish we ordered featured artfully scattered hunks of angel food cake and compressed strawberries, and as the pastry chef started his work, a whole cast of supporting characters joined in. Here and there, we saw a moist rectangle of pressed graham cracker, white chocolate powder, dollops of white chocolate mousse, soaked cherries, shards of dark chocolate, mint oil, lime sorbet, cheesecake mousse, and… we lost track! Some elements might have been superfluous, but the dish looked and tasted dynamite. While showy, it wasn’t fussy and precious like many “deconstructed” desserts served around town these days. The chef clearly had a great time concocting this composition, and we had a better time eating it.
Pig Ate My Pizza is a fantastic addition to the area’s thriving pizza scene. It’s in the same league as Black Sheep and Pizzeria Lola (and Lola’s awesome new offshoot, Hello Pizza), even if it plays by its own rules. If you’re looking for a rowdy good time and a great meal, we highly recommend you call the Pig.
Pig Ate My Pizza
4154 W Broadway Ave
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
HOURS: Tues-Sun 12-2pm and 5-10pm
OWNER: Travail LLC
BAR: Beer and Wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE: $9-18 (Tasting menu, $60 for 2 people, $110 for 4 people)