ARTISANS: Pizza Bianchi
Good news for all pizza fans. We’ve worked with Bristol’s Pizza Bianchi on a limited run of tees celebrating everyone’s favourite meal. Designed by visual culture magpie Turbo Island, the tees combine two of the world’s greatest wonders… well-crafted pizza and finely-honed workwear.
To coincide with the launch of the tees, on Saturday the 6th of August we’re throwing a bit of a party down at Pizza Bianchi’s fine restaurant, with some special, limited Stan Ray pizzas and shakes inspired by our Texan roots on the menu, as well as music courtesy of DJ Felix Joy. Everyone’s invited.
Until then, we caught up with Pizza Bianchi’s Mitch Church about dough, toppings and the importance of doing things a little differently. Like us, Pizza Bianchi are influenced by time-honoured Americana, without being stuck in the past. Taking classic ingredients and adding a unique modern flavour is the name of the game for this lot—serving up pizza, milkshakes and various other culinary delights from their restaurant in the heart of Bristol.
Starting things off, what’s the story behind Pizza Bianchi?
Well originally two cousins, Ben and Dom, started Pasta Loco. That was their first restaurant and they’ve now got five - Pasta Loco, Pasta Ripiena, Bianchis, Cotto and then Pizza Bianchi, which started out as a pop-up during lockdown out of the back of Lakota Gardens - which is an infamous club in Bristol. And that was the time when there was just outside dining. But then they got a spot for Pizza Bianchi up from the Triangle—an old American diner called Rocotillos.
I’ve heard of that—it was quite an iconic Bristol spot wasn’t it?
Yeah, it had been there for maybe 25 or 30 years, doing milkshakes and burgers. It had been empty for about a year, but then we gave it a big revamp, whilst keeping the diner style with the red and white tiles. We kept that American feel and added in the Italian flavour too. As a nod to Rocotillos, we kept the milkshakes, although we’ve tweaked the menu a bit. We’re still making them in those classic silver tins for that Americana vibe.
From little takeaways to swanky restaurants, a lot of places sell pizza, but what sets Pizza Bianchi apart? You seem to have quite a fanbase.
I think our pizza is amazing. We’ve got a central kitchen where we make all of our dough which benefits from a walk-in fridge. That means that although we’re quite a small spot, we’ve got the space to make this really great dough and allow it to ferment for the time it needs. It’s not sour-dough, but a lot of time and effort goes into it.
I suppose the better the initial ingredients are and the better the dough is, the better the pizza is going to turn out.
Yeah, it’s bangin’. Also, I guess the service aspect sets us apart. Things are a bit different at Pizza Bianchi to our other restaurants—the music’s pretty pumping and it’s a bit more laid back—but it’s still got that high level of service. That’s what a lot of people talk about in our reviews.
You mentioned how it differs from your other restaurants—it almost seems like pizza places operate outside of how other food spots work. You don’t want to have to get dressed up for a slice of pizza.
Exactly yeah—another thing that makes us different is that we’ve got Bristol’s first pizza hatch, like in America where you can go and grab an arm-length slice to takeaway. You can rock up on your lunch break, grab a slice and a drink within a minute. And we’re the only pizza joint in Bristol who does that.
It’s weird that more places don’t do that. It’s such a great idea that works so well in New York, yet why is it impossible to get a simple slice of pizza in the UK? All we seem to get is stuffy takeaway pizzas.
I don’t know—it’s weird isn’t it? I guess you’ve got to be in the right place. In London there are a couple of places that do that, but there’s not many. For something like that, you want the pizza to be high quality, and the restaurant has to be in the right spot to make it work. We’re on the Triangle in Bristol, which is super central—so a slice for a couple of quid is sort of ideal.
That’s perfect - it certainly beats a cold, damp meal deal. Obviously lock-down was a huge thing for restaurants—how did it change the idea of Pizza Bianchi?
Suddenly people weren’t allowed to eat in restaurants anymore, so we had to change a lot—that takeaway aspect became a big thing. And also, our other restaurants sell pasta—and that’s maybe not the best food to get as a takeaway. It doesn’t really work. But yeah, you had to be innovative, and I guess pizza was one of those ideas—and it’s Italian, like the other things we do.
There are quite a few genres of pizza… from those napoli ones to a New York type slice. Where does Pizza Bianchi sit on the pizza spectrum?
They’re sort of in the middle. We use the same dough across the board—from the big pizzas to the takeaway slices. Because the dough is made with 48-hour fermentation, it gives the pizzas that amazing crust and chewiness. Ours have a bit more back to them than some pizzas—they’re bangin’.
We do a mix of traditional pizzas—the Italian ones, like our Tuscan with sausages, shallots and wild broccoli—and then something more creative. We like to mix things up a bit. Like with Stan Ray - we wanted to reference their Texas roots, so there’s a kind of BBQ nod, then with a classy Italian twist on it. We like to do things that are a little bit different.
What are your specialities?
Obviously the margherita is a big seller, but we also do a piccante. It has salami, ‘nduja and naga mayo. Naga is an Indian chilli that is a favourite amongst the Bianchis crew and part of the family heritage as well as Italian, so we use it to make our own spicy mayo, and that’s one of our big sellers.
Why do you think that people love pizza so much? 99% of people love pizza.
Why does everybody love pizza? I don’t know—I guess it’s kind of like sandwiches. If you put something either on or in bread, it’s pretty much going to be nice, right? And then there’s the convenience and the fast food angle. People grow up on pizza don’t they? Everyone remembers having pizza at parties as a kid. It’s got that Italian and American flavour, and it sort of hits that memory on the head really. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles loved pizza.
They tick a few boxes. A quiche is technically similar—but it’s not like there’s the same culture around quiches… or flans, for that matter.
Yeah there really isn’t. Poor flan—we need to start the Bianchi Flan Company. Also maybe people like pizzas because they’re naughty? There’s all that cheese.
I know Pizza Express did a ‘healthy pizza’ where they cut out the middle and put a salad in there. It was almost like to make a healthy pizza they had to remove most of it. We won’t be doing that anytime soon.
There was a phase a few years ago where there were some wild pizza fusions getting churned out… pizzas with mini-burgers around the edge or maybe sausages crammed in the crust. Can pizza toppings go too far?
I think so. There are a couple of spots that I know that do some pretty wild toppings, and there’s probably a place for it, but I don’t really want more than five ingredients on my pizza, keep it Napoli style where less is more . You can have something relatively simple, with high quality ingredients. Nothing too mad. Obviously little Bianchis twists like naga mayo on the side are nice though!
You don’t want some Yorkshire puddings and a dollop of gravy on top then?
It’s the same as the stuffed crust. I don’t need my crust stuffed with some gross cheese.
Yeah it sort of defeats the point of a pizza. What else is in the pipeline for Pizza Bianchi then?
We’ve got a couple of exciting things going on. We’re going to do a few pop-ups and music events, as well as some film nights at our new event space Centrale, where people can come along, have some pizza, watch a film and chill out.
It seems like nowadays a restaurant needs to be more than just a restaurant. You can’t just flick the open sign on and expect people to walk in.
Yeah, like you said, everyone loves pizza, but you’ve got to keep it exciting. Pizza is great, but you’ve got to make sure people still know you’re there. There are a lot of restaurants in Bristol, so you’ve got to keep things interesting and fresh. Being innovative and linking up with other people, keeping it fun basically. That’s sort of what my job is about here, and I love it.
It’s maybe the same with clothes shops or any real physical spaces these days. When it’s so easy to stay at home and order something online, you’ve got to offer something a bit more unique.
You’ve got to be one step ahead. There’s got to be a reason someone is going to come to you instead of somewhere else. A lot of it comes down to service. If you go to a shop and someone looks after you, then you’re probably going to go back, instead of trawling the internet. It’s the same with our restaurant—you can come down, chill out, have an Aperol Spritz and catch a vibe.
Definitely. Are people fully embracing the dining out experience again?
Yeah I think people are definitely back out, but it’s just a funny old time now with the cost of living being so high coming straight after covid. Things are good, but it’s a rollercoaster.
The act of going out and meeting friends and getting food is a pretty timeless thing.
Yeah—if you’re not keeping it fresh and people aren’t coming, you’re not going to be around for long. It’s the same situation with people at home—prices of food we use for ingredients go up for us the same as they do at the supermarket. But I think we do a good job—you’ve just got to keep your eye on the ball and be a restaurant that provides an experience, always thinking outside the box.
It seems like you’ve done a good job of that. Rounding this off now so you can get back to work, if you could only have one pizza topping for the rest of your life… what are you having?
I’d probably go for a slice of pepperoni with a side of naga mayo, or I’d maybe give Dom a shout out to his special—a margherita with extra garlic and extra chilli. It’s like a souped up margherita. I’m a fan of it. If not, I’d have picante—that’s the one I talked about with the salami, but I maybe couldn’t have that all the time…
The Stan Ray Pizza Bianchi tees are available on our website and at Pizza Bianchi from the 6th of August.
Interview by our friend Sam Waller.
All Staff pictured wearing our Double Knee Painter Pants in Natural Drill and Black.