Students who frequent Memorial Walkway on their way to classes may be easily distracted by the aroma of fresh pizza being baked at 800 degrees in a wood-fired oven. The smell doesn’t originate from a dining hall, but instead from Lehigh’s newest eatery on wheels.
1865 House of Pi made its debut late last month. The oven pizza truck is open two to three days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On average, the truck has over 90 customers per lunch shift, according to Concessions Director Daniel Burke.
The pizza is prepared and cooked in a few simple steps. As students place their orders, the prep cook garnishes pizza dough with fresh, local ingredients. The pizza is then passed along on a wooden paddle into a wood-fire oven at 800 degrees. The entire preparation and cooking process takes about three to four minutes.
Each 10-inch pizza ranges in price from $7 to $13. Currently, the menu consists of four different pizzas: cheese, pepperoni, a local specialty and one that varies daily in fresh ingredients. So far, the top-selling pizza is the classic cheese.
Even though the truck has only been open for a few weeks, students have responded very positively to its menu.
“The quality of a wood-fired pizza mixed with the convenience of a mobile vendor makes 1865 House of Pi worth (the) money,” said Andrew Zdanowicz, ’17, as he devoured his pepperoni pizza.
The truck currently accepts Dining Dollars, cash, credit card and GoldPLUS. It is currently working on accepting meal swipes –all with the objective of becoming more convenient for students.
“The crisp arugula and the local, fresh juicy tomatoes made 1865 House of Pi’s pizza the best of any local vendor on campus,” Noah Saltzman, ’17, said.
In addition to students, the truck’s employees have responded well to the business.
“(Sodexo workers) enjoy what they do…this is one of the more fun and interesting concepts we have,” Burke said. “Everything is outside, and we really get to interact with our guests and our community.”
Don Deemer, a concessions worker for Sodexo, is the prep cook who places the toppings on the pizza before handing over the pizza to RJ Martinez, the wood-fire oven operator. Martinez said he became a professional at working the oven within only 15 minutes.
“It’s the best pizza I ever tasted,” Burke said in regards to the local specialty pizza, which is his personal favorite.
Burke said that he recommends the local specialty pizza because it includes the use of various local ingredients, such as plum tomatoes, arugula, spinach and fresh mozzarella.
But why did Lehigh choose a pizza truck?
“Pizza is a universal food loved by all, and a mobile wood-burning oven gives us an opportunity to offer a high-quality, delicious pizza experience anywhere at any time to support our vibrant and diverse campus population’s dining needs,” Burke said.
As for how the creative title came about, Amy Pulcini, marketing coordinator of Dining Services, said that 1865 House of Pi was created by David Joseph, executive director of Student Auxiliary Services. The title is a creative math joke because 1865 symbolizes the year Lehigh was founded, and the Greek letter ‘Pi’ is used instead of ‘Pie’.
Pulcini shared how incorporating fresh, local ingredients into making the pizza is the central concept of the pizza truck. She also mentioned how, in the future, she hopes the menu will expand to dessert pizzas, calzones and stromboli.
“I would like to see House of Pi become a destination for students and faculty – someplace where people can meet and enjoy really good, fresh food,” Pulcini said.
Students who don’t frequently use Memorial Walkway will still have a chance to catch the truck. It was at Goodman Stadium for the first home football game and will likely be at future soccer and lacrosse games.
Katherine Warg, a food supervisor at Sodexo, encourages students to follow the Fud Truk on Twitter and Facebook until the pizza truck Twitter handle is operational.
Next time you pass the flagpole on the UC Front Lawn, trek over to the pizza truck to enjoy a unique culinary experience.