When it comes to food, I have a tendency for hyperbole and exaggeration. Everything is either the greatest or the worst. Colorful adjectives come out of my mouth whether the food is good or bad. I try not to do this. I try to keep my thoughts on food muted and level headed. I try think of food as utilitarian to keep from going to extremes. “Food is fuel for the body”, I tell myself. But when I eat it, strong opinions stir within me. I realize good food is awesome, even necessary and I get as excited as a hungry kid in a candy store.
Last night was different. There were no colorful adjectives. No flowered exaggerations. No jumping up and down. I just sat in my seat and kept saying “Wow.” Over and over again. After every bite. And to Alex’s annoyance I’m sure.
We were lucky enough to grab a seat at the soft opening of the new Fortify Pi in downtown Clayton, Georgia. Fortify Pi is the latest offering from Chef Jamie Allred and front of house guru’s Jack and Sarah Nolan. They along with Jamie’s wife Hillary Allred (co-owner of Cage-Free Boutique across the street) opened the much celebrated and award winning Fortify two years ago after working together at another local North Georgia restaurant. As Fortify has continued to convert customers to loyal fans of it’s upscale dining, the owners decided to open something a little simpler this time, but no less good. Thus Fortify Pi was born.
Pi is the scientific play on words for pizza. The logo features the classic Pi symbol – the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, i.e. the perfect circle. To continue this theme, every table has a little glass beaker (giving me bad flashbacks to high school chemistry class) with fresh cut flowers. It’s a simple concept but full of thought and intention which has become their trademark at Fortify.
Fortify Pi is located adjacent to Fortify in downtown Clayton. The wall behind the bar is made of old bricks that have been painted white while the opposite side is made up of new and shiny white bricks. A massive light fixture made of beakers hangs over the four foot tall family style table in the back corner while six other tables fill up the dining room. The bar runs almost the length of the building and has stacks of firewood for the pizza oven nestled next to their great selection of craft beer taps and local wines like Tiger Mountain Vineyards from just down the road. The focal point of Fortify Pi is a set of huge collapsible windows that span the front of the restaurant. Half way through our dinner, they opened the windows and a warm summer breeze filled the restaurant.
Let’s talk food. You know the stuff that kept making me say “wow” over and over again. For the soft opening we were offered an appetizer sampler that featured meatballs and ricotta, fried mozzarella, and four different kinds of wings.
The wings were so, so good. We’re biased because we make some really good wings ourselves but we know good wings when we taste them and these were some of the best. I had two kinds, a dry rub and a traditional buffalo style, and both were fantastic. The dry rubbed wings were full of smoke and crispy yet still tender. The “hot” wings had a sauce that was perfect – a little heat mixed in with just a hint of sweetness.
The pizza was next. We went with the cured meat and peppadew pepper option. The entire pizza was literally covered in four kinds of meat. And not small chunks or pieces mind you. Entire slices of prosciutto, salami and two other Italian cuts that got layered in with the sweet peppers. You can’t have good pizza without a great crust and Chef Jamie nailed it here too. The crust is a Neapolitan style pizza that was crisp and snapped in your mouth without being hard or tough.
To top the night off, they brought out a delicious chocolate drizzled cannoli. I should say that I have never met a cannoli I didn’t like but theirs was good. Real good. The only problem we had was trying to split it a couple of ways.
I should also say the service was amazing. Granted it was the first night and everyone is always happy and excited for a new launch, but they have a great team. They were super attentive for our entire dinner – there when we needed them and gone when we didn’t.
As Clayton continues to grow and emerge, I have a strong feeling that the Allred’s and Nolan’s are going to be at the forefront of revitalizing the downtown area along with the other great business and restaurant owners down there. And if the soft opening was any indication of what is to come from this new little spot, then they are going to crush it and have lines out the door for a very long time. If you’re coming through or staying in Rabun County, make sure you stop by and check them out.
Fortify Pi officially opens today and will be open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.