Story and photos by BRANDON RISLEY
Just west of the campus of the University of Utah, The Pie Pizzeria has been a staple of Salt Lake City for nearly 35 years.
With its old-style brick walls and dim lighting the Pie has been labeled “the best hidden secret in Salt Lake City” by its customers and has continued to make “Best Pizza” lists throughout the state’s local papers.
The Pie’s original restaurant lies a block away from the University campus and is located in the basement underneath the University Pharmacy off the corner of 1320 East and 200 South. With The Pie situated underground and only one sign marking the location it isn’t a very easy place to find. However “word of mouth” has kept The Pie one of the busiest establishments around campus.
Owner Mathew Palmer has been living the dream ever since his family created The Pie back in 1980. “Every time I walk into the restaurant and see all the people it just makes my day,” Palmer says. “My family and I worked hard to make not only a great tasting restaurant but also a fun hang out spot.”
According to The Pie’s website, “The establishment was remembered by long time Salt Lake residents as Bimbos, in the Cellar in 1965. Bimbos was a pizza and pasta place where a 14 inch pizza was had for only $2.20. One of only three pizza restaurants at the time, the seats were actually wooden pews and closed on Sunday for use as a church.”
Palmer went on to talk about how back in 1980 his family decided that they needed a change of scenery. “Since we were set up right next to the U my parents wanted to make it more of a college atmosphere,” he says. “We changed the name to The Pie, took away the church feel and made it more accessible to students. It was an instant success.” The word quickly spread through the students at the university as they came in by the dozens.
Jennifer Ogden, a Salt Lake City resident and University of Utah alumna in the class of 1987, said that she and her friends spent many nights there hanging out and studying. “Most kids spent their nights in the library but we needed a place where we could be ourselves and not get in trouble,” Ogden says. “We were quite a loud group and it also helped that we loved the pizza.”
The Pie’s mission statement is that it believes that every pizza should take the time and care it deserves. The dough is hand rolled and tossed the traditional way, the meats and vegetables are freshly sliced every morning, and Palmer believes that if a pizza took five minutes to cook than it’d either be a miracle or not taste very good.
“We’re not afraid to take our time because we know that our customers have loved the way we’ve cooked our product for the past 35 years,” Palmer says. “My family believed in making every dish special and I’ve wanted to continue that trend.”
Current University of Utah student Mitchell Orr says that one of the best things about The Pie is that it is open till late at night. “As far as I know there are really only two places around campus that are open late, Village Inn and The Pie,” he says. “With Village Inn not really being within walking distance The Pie is the place to go when experiencing those late night munchies.”
The Pie is open until 1 a.m. on weeknights, 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sundays. It has become one of the most popular hangout places for students. “Living in Salt Lake my entire life I grew up going to The Pie when I was younger but I never truly understood the majesticness of it until I got to college,” Orr says. “Only when you’re tired of studying after midnight and head to The Pie do you taste the greasy toppings and melty cheese of an incredible pizza.”
According to the website The Pie also has not only been voted as one of premier pizza places in Utah by local media such as KSL, Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Magazine, but it was also voted the 7th best Pizza in the nation by Citysearch.com
Palmer couldn’t have been happier with how The Pie has been given so much praise over the years. “In a word, I’ve been overjoyed with (The Pie’s) success,” Palmer says. “My family set out to create a place that people will come to and then go out and tell all their friends and that’s exactly what has happened. I hope to keep this going for another 35 years.”
Ogden says that even after she graduated she still comes back to reminisce about old times. “Everything is still how I remember it,” she says. “Going back there is our way of remembering what we went through and never wanting to do it again. Except for tasting this great pizza.”
The Pie may be small and hard to find but its legacy has made it a whole lot bigger to Utah students.