Tucked into a corner of the stripmall complex on Portland Hills that once held Que Tal---a new restaurant called Absolutely Delish Cuisine recently opened in that space---Piez Bistro specializes in pizzas and other savoury pies.
It's a tiny restaurant. A handful of tables fills the corner around the counter, while shelves stacked with jars and boxes, and fridges filled with crates of eggs and tubs of sauces fill up what's left of the space dominated by a stack oven in the back.
When Heath and I walk in, the restaurant is empty except for a chef doing some prep behind the counter and a server. After a few awkward moments of staring at the menu above the counter, a chalkboard menu with brunch specials is pointed out and we are given some paper menus.
There is also a display case with some creative take-out friendly salads, pocket pies and other options that aren't on the menu. There seems to be quite a bit of attention on gluten-free and vegan options, but there's also a lot of standard dishes like pizzas and nachos. It's a lot to process and no assistance is offered.
We opt to cobble a meal together of a nine-inch "T"-PI pizza ($12) and a twice-baked sweet potato dish we spot in the cabinet ($5.95), with a small Greek salad ($8.95) on the side.
While there is a small eat-in area decorated in simple, rustic wood, the restaurant seems much more geared towards take-out than sit-down service. We grab a table.
After about 15 minutes, the pizza is slid onto our table, prettily plated on a well-used wooden pizza peel. It's a lovely pizza, hand-formed into a charmingly clumsy, rustic circle. Deep brown slices of mushrooms, some crumbles of sausage and green streaks of spinach peek out from under a generous spread of melted cheese.
The crust is extremely thin, but not quite a cracker crust. It's dense and almost airless, and it lacks crispness in the middle. A dusting of cornmeal on the bottom adds a good bit of texture to each bite, though. The tomato sauce is very mild, just a touch of sweetness in the background that sets off the mix of earthy sautéed mushrooms, spinach and crumbles of salty sausage. Even with the sausage and cheese, it's a pleasurably light pizza.
The twice-baked sweet potato is pretty good. It's topped with chopped chicken, green onions and cheese, and the toppings are pretty well dried-out after it is re-warmed for service, but it is a nice concept for a take-out lunch dish.
The salad is the only misstep. The menu does not note the inclusion of roasted red peppers on the ingredient list, but our salad is teeming with them. They add an unappealing soppiness to what should be a crisp salad. Served with a creamy lemon dressing on the side, all together it lacks the fresh, acidic notes of a good Greek salad.
While we eat, a few more people come in to get take-out. They all mill about waiting for their orders, making our sit-down meal seem almost overly formal. There's no table service at all after delivering the food---no offer of water, no check-in, no bill brought to the table. It's clear that Piez is more akin to an Alexandra's than it is a Morris East.
After paying at the counter, I notice a wide selection of desserts I hadn't seen earlier. They all look homemade and delicious; a little more attention from a server would have probably resulted in a sale. The scattered menu items put me at a disadvantage: familiarity seems like a real asset when ordering at Piez. My guess is that the second time's the charm. And I'm game to try again.
105-635 Portland Hills Drive
Mon-Wed, 11am-7pm; Thu, 11am-8pm; Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat, 9am-10pm; Sun, 9am-7pm