A Q&A with Alan Frank of SOL Pie Pizza
SOL Pie Pizza is dedicated to using organic ingredients, many of them locally produced, and catering to people with food allergies and vegan diets.
But the shop, at 3159 Whitewood Street NW in Plain Township, also is about making tasty food, including pizzas, salads and bowls. Its most popular specialty pizza, The Daydreamer, is topped with maple-glazed bacon, sausage, salami, caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, roasted bell peppers and fresh basil.
“I would say about 70 percent of our customers are extremely passionate about what we’re doing. The other 30 just love the pizza and don’t care one way or another,” said Alan Frank, who with his wife, Lisa, launched SOL Pie Pizza in the summer of 2014. They’d previously operated it as Ermanno’s Pizza, a franchise of Lisa’s father’s shop in Louisville.
Q. How did you get interested in organic foods?
A. “We just slowly started at home researching what we were eating, and one item after another, my wife would say, ‘We shouldn’t be eating this.’ We knew it was important to avoid pesticides and things with additives like high-fructose corn syrup. I discovered I had an allergy to MSG, which is in a lot of savory foods. I’d been struggling for 30 years with migraines and didn’t know what was causing it. We watched the movie ‘Food, Inc.’ and other documentaries.”
Q. And you started using organic ingredients at the pizza shop?
A. “We started changing slowly. We’d find clean substitutes for ingredients, one at a time. We started getting more passionate about using organics and local stuff, so we decided it was time to go off on our own. Our biggest feat was the stigma that goes along with organics. A lot of people think wheatgrass and beansprouts, although things have changed. We’ve got customers who come down regularly from Akron, Cleveland, Twinsburg.”
Q. Tell me about some of the local ingredients you use at Sol Pie.
A. “Everything on the menu is non-GMO at least. We try to go organic as often as we can. We try and know the farmers and what their growing methods are. Most aren’t certified organic because of the costs and red tape, but they all grow organic. Rudy Moyer, the master gardener at Pegasus Farms in Marlboro, provides us pretty much year-round with basil, arugula and spinach, and tomatoes when they’re in season. We also use Anthony Petitti Organic Greenhouse in Louisville. We get all of the pork for the sausage that we make in-house from Premium Pastured Meats in Alliance; we get our steak there, too. We have organic spelt flour that is sourced from Stutzman’s Farms in Millersburg.”
Q. How do you cater to specialized diets?
A. “We don’t use any peanuts; we’re very careful about peanut products. We bring in the gluten-free pizza dough; it’s easier that way to be consistent and avoid cross-contamination. We just started offering low-carb cauliflower crust that’s gluten free. We offer vegan cheese, and we just brought in Beyond Burger, which is vegan burger, as topping for pizzas, salads and bowls. We have a large vegan following. A lot of them are very grateful. We have people come in regularly who say they haven’t had pizza in years.”
SOL Pie Pizza:
3159 Whitewood St. NW, Plain Twp. Fall and winter hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more details and to place order, visit solpiepizza.com or call 330-494-3131.