How bacon and the 'love of 'zaa!' are changing pizza in St. John's
Every day, pizza lovers in the St. John's area share photos of their favourite pies, analyze the delicate balance of each one, and inspire others to devour the must-eat slice of the week.
They're members of a Facebook group called "For Da Love of 'Zaa!" and by 3 p.m. Saturday close to 15,000 people were all fired up about pizza.
"It started as a joke just for me and the b'ys, basically, me and a couple friends," said group founder Thomas Bishop.
"I just thought of it one day: post a pizza, other people can comment, rate it, see where it's from, the prices, and all that racket."
He created the group less than a year ago, but it "just blew up" over the past few weeks, influencing local pizza makers in the process.
"Do I have to tell the truth?"
"I eat a lot of pizza a week, yes," Bishop laughed to CBC Radio One's Weekend AM.
Don't mess with a Newfoundlander's bacon
"For Da Love of 'Zaa!" has changed Kilbride Pizza owner/operator Mahmoud (Moody) Elsayed's life.
He found the group on Facebook a few weeks ago, with its myriad of comments on local pizzas.
"One of the posts was mentioning something regarding my pizza, and how I'm using just crumble bacon instead of sliced bacon and everybody don't like it," Elsayed said.
He also saw a comment about his spices, which come from all over the world, a recipe developed from his time in Egypt, Greece and Italy.
Elsayed "went for it," switched to bacon slices like the people asked, mixed up his spices, and now he can't keep up with demand.
For Newfoundlanders, bacon is an important topping for any pizza or garlic finger. But it has to be the right kind.
"I even asked my supplier, 'what's with the bacon?'" Elsayed told Weekend AM inside his shop lunchtime Friday.
"He said, 'Everybody loves sliced bacon!'"
Knowing which side of his dough is sauced, Elsayed thanked the group for his new and improved pizza, offering 15 per cent discounts one weekend.
Word of his pizza spread like tomato sauce on a circle of crust.
"As you see the phone doesn't stop — off the hook. I don't have nothing to give now!"
Appetite for Elsayed's pizza is so great he had to change his hours and take only walk-in orders, and he sometimes runs out of pizza before closing.
"I'm only one man, I'm making the pizzas, and we only have two ovens and we're cooking as fast as we can," he said, adding they sell more than 100 pizzas a day.
Although he has help with prep work like chopping vegetables, quality control is key.
"I don't want anyone to come near my pizza. I'm the only one makes the pizza."
Passion for pizza, and people
Elsayed said he's inspired by members of the group, who "know what they're talking about."
"The more I see people coming in, the more I see the people enjoying my pizza, I'm flattered," he said.
"I'm really, really so happy, and so happy to see people happy. It's giving me the motive to work harder and harder every day."
Elsayed said he's been in the pizza business in various places for more than 20 years, and St. John's has some of the best pizza joints in the world — there's more to the group than Kilbride Pizza.
After meeting "For Da Love of 'Zaa!" founder Thomas Bishop, he's not quite sure what to think.
"Thomas is a really nice guy, and I don't know if I hate him or I love him because he was one of the reasons that all this came up, right?"
As for Bishop, he said running the ever-growing group is taking up more and more time, but he'll keep at it.
"I don't know, man, as long as people keep eating pizza, I suppose."