By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
CLEARWATER BEACH — Sand Key in Clearwater is a long stretch of seriously tall condominiums and hotels and not a ton of casual places for a bite. So when I'm wearing flip-flops and am slick with suntan oil, where to go? For a time there was Little Italian Pizza. It wasn't the kind of pie you dream about at night, but it was sturdy Chicago style 'za that hit the spot.
Michael Athanasopoulos, who was briefly the chef at Taverna Skara, a newcomer in Safety Harbor, took over the space five weeks ago and launched Pizza Bizzar. There's nothing particularly bizarr(e) about it, except this: It's Greek-style pizza. Think about it. Hummus and roasted red bell pepper, or thinly sliced gyro meat with green and red bell peppers, heaped onto a smoky, chewy crust.
Athanasopoulos and his small crew can swing more traditional pizzas as well (his wife, Samantha, asked her Greek husband accusingly, "When did you learn how to make pizza?!"). One night we tucked into a great veggie pie called the Ithaca ($21 for a 14-inch, $23.50 for a 16-inch) heavily laden with cheese, Greek olives, tomato slices, peppers, onions and feta and a sprinkle of oregano. Yes, slightly Greek inflected, but a fairly traditional pie, as was another one we tried called the Pinocchio ($17.50, $19.50) with a topping of cheese, sausage and pepperoni. This last was a bit salty (and made me wonder why it was named in honor of a puppet with a big schnoz), but it had the kind of puffy, tooth-resistant crust that tends to please a broad audience.
The best offerings aren't pizza at all, though. The Ulycess salad ($8.95 small, $10.95 large) is a plucky Greek with lengths of romaine added into the mix. A colossal two-person calzone ($14 plus toppings) is the size of a bowling bag, one without a handle and packed with molten cheese.
The bulk of business thus far is likely pizza delivery, its fairly no-frills dining room not doing gangbuster business. Servers are still getting into the swing of things, their patter a little rough around the edges. But my guess is that PB will take: On one end of its strip mall is the venerable, and always busy, Columbia. At the other end is Backwaters, a lively bar with a view that regularly is standing room only.
Walk along the waterfront deck that runs the length of the strip mall and it will hit you: the smell of pizza dough baking golden in a big oven, perhaps a whiff of oregano or feta. Greek pizza is unusual for sure, but definitely not bizarre.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.