“Neapolitan pizza is the essence of what pizza is intended to be,” say Jason Neidhardt, co-owner of Piro Brick Oven & Barroom, the soon-to-open pizzeria housed in the burgeoning South Main neighborhood. The restaurant represents another step forward in the development along Little Rock’s Main St., and also signifies the continued demand for high-quality restaurants in this city. In addition to Neidhardt, the restaurant is backed by business partners Bart Barlogie Jr., and Eric Nelson. While a few city permits have pushed the opening of Piro back a bit further then the group originally anticipated, Neidhardt assures us the wait will be worth it, and now, with nearly all the details hammered out, we can expect to see soft openings in the very near future with the restaurant fully operational by February 17th.
“We have tried to follow the philosophy behind Neapolitan pizza in every way possible,” says Neidhardt, “From the ‘00’ flour that is the foundation of our dough, to the arugula sourced from local farms, we stress taking the extra step to ensure that every item that we prepare is approached with the highest respect.”
A large part of the philosophy behind Piro’s will involve featuring the local harvest wherever possible, with rotating specials to match the changing seasons. They are sourcing both domestic and imported Italian meats and cheeses. Expect meats from Hillcrest Artisan Meats, vegetables, herbs, and fruits from Dunbar Gardens, and gelato from Loblolly Creamery.
We met with Neidhardt and Barlogie recently, and got a chance to look inside the new space. The interior is surprisingly large and open, with a long bar and several tables and benches stretched across long walls that extend back further than one would imagine based one the restaurant’s exterior.
Neidhardt is understandably excited about his pizza oven, a Marsal MB-60 double-deck brick-lined gas oven (which the team has lovingly named “Althea”). “It’s the same oven that my favorite pizzeria in San Francisco, Pizzeria Delfina, uses in their operation.” Reaching temperatures of up to 650 degrees, the oven cooks a pie in about 5 1/2 minutes, which Neidhardt notes should “allow Piro to get the business lunch crowd in-and-out in less than 30 minutes.”
On the menu, you’ll find pizzas such as the “HAMcetta” with H.A.M’s pancetta, smoked chiles, soft farm eggs, and pecorino. There’s the “Funghi” with an assortment of wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, and olive oil. The “Salsiccia” features housemade fennel sausage, peppadew, mozzarella, and pomodoro. And there’s more to Piro than just pizza. A number of sandwiches will be available featuring breads from Boulevard Bread Co…be sure to look for the fried mortadella sandwich with black truffle and fried egg. You’ll find starters such as beef carpaccio, burrata, and roasted bone marrow, too.
Neidhardt also promises that “the bar program is going to be as focused as the food.” You’ll see a full service bar with an emphasis on beer and wine. There will be 19 beers on tap (plus Sprecher Root Beer), all craft beers, featuring local breweries such as Stone’s Throw and Moody Brews. “We will also have 4 wines on tap along with 8-10 other rotating wines available by the glass or bottle,” he adds.
The restaurant is located at 1318 S. Main St. Hours of operation will be Sunday 11 am to 3 pm, closed Monday, Tues – Thurs 11 am to 10 pm, and Fri – Sat 11am to 11 pm. Keep an eye on Piro’s Facebook page for updates. It won’t be long before you’ll be able to sink your teeth into one of their pies.