It’s all stars and charred wood at Republic Pi, the new pizza place on Spokane’s South Hill.
Applewood stacked inside circular shelving feeds the fire in the open kitchen. Walls are done in the traditional Japanese style of shou sugi ban, which preserves wood through a controlled burn.
The dimly lighted restaurant is also decorated with reclaimed wood, custom-made metalworks and five-pointed stars. The look is Texas industrial meets minimalist Japan – with a few modern touches, such as a granite-topped bar.
Pizzas – there are 14 of them, thin-crust, all one size (12 inches) – feature a different kind of dough than the restaurant’s sister location. At Flying Goat in Spokane’s Audubon neighborhood, the crust offers a hint of sourdough. Republic Pi crust is New World meets Neapolitan with added extra-virgin olive oil and semolina flour.
Pies at the new Republic Pi include the Republic, a puttanesca pizza with calamari, mozzarella, capers and kalamata olives; the Bluff with garlic cream sauce, smoked onion, bacon and Brussels sprouts; and Shou Sugi Ban with lemongrass-grilled pork, mozzarella, green onion, and carrot and daikon salad.
It pays homage to the eatery’s blackened walls, which resemble the roughness of alligator skin. The process includes torching the wood, drenching it with water, removing excess soot and finishing it with natural oils.
Republic Pi, more than two years in the making, is also a sister restaurant to Downriver Grill, which doesn’t do pizza but steak, chicken, seafood and such. The new pizza place is owned by three couples: chef Darrin Gleason and his wife, Shelly; as well as Jonathan and Lisa Sweatt; and Jodie and John Stejer.
They had been looking for a location on the South Hill for about a year before buying the building late last summer and spending nearly an entire year remodeling the space. It once housed a men’s clothing store.
“I actually rented my tux for prom here,” said Jonathan Sweatt, who was born and raised on the South Hill. “My father bought most of his suits from Dave.”
Dave Hamer closed his clothier in 2001 after nearly 45 years. Republic Pi’s Hamer House Potato Chips with green garbanzo bean hummus honor him. And the South Hill pizza – with arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella and shaved pecorino romano – is a tribute to the neighborhood. It isn’t the only area honored, there are Cannon, Lincoln, and 30th Off Grand pies, too.
Two come from the menu at the Flying Goat: the Waikiki with cured ham, coppa, roasted pineapple and jalapeños; and the No. 37 (called the Kiernan at the Goat) with cream sauce, sausage, a soft-cooked egg, arugula and truffle oil. A dollar from each No. 37 sold will be donated to the Team Gleason foundation to help find a cure for ALS. The pizza is named for Steve Gleason, the former professional football player and Spokane native who’s battling the disease. (Darrin and Steve aren’t related. Sweatt has known Steve Gleason since they were teens.)
On the drink menu, the Abe Froman is named for bar manager Brian Carpenter – or, rather, his hairdo – and a never-seen character in the 1986 John Hughes film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The gin-based cocktail features lemon, ginger, basil and bubbly.
“It’s probably my favorite,” said Carpenter, who offers modern twists on classic cocktails. There’s fresh thyme in the Bee’s Knees, the Negroni is made with tequila, there’s maple syrup and spice and cherry liqueurs in the old-fashioned, and ginger liqueur in the greyhound. The mojito is made with cider from Tieton Cider Works and broVo Pink, a rosé sweet vermouth. (Distiller Mac Kenney is a Spokane native.)
Craft cocktails feature spirits from regional distilleries. The wine list offers Pacific Northwest and Italian wines, which range from $20 to $120 per bottle. Plus, there are 21 beers on tap.
Look for fried avocado wedges on the appetizer, or “sharables,” menu as well as Guinness beef stew and the Urban Cowboy salad with “rodeo” greens, couscous, roasted corn, pico de gallo, pepitas and chickpea dressing.
For dessert, there’s soft serve ice cream – strawberry and maple bacon to start – as well as hearth-Guinness pudding and baked fruit turnovers served with butterscotch sauce and soft serve.
That hearth, by the way, has no gas assist. “It’s very old-school,” Sweatt said.
The applewood that feeds the fire comes from an orchard in Brewster, Washington.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.