Mary D. Scourtes touts Tampa's organic Pizza Fusion

Tampa's Pizza Fusion is at the corner of Zack and Tampa Streets

This the first of many posts by Mary D. Scourtes, new food writer for Please welcome her! ~ Taylor

Yesterday was the usual 3-machine day: treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike. But some places rate as a 4-machine workout, so add the glider to make up for sins from the night before.

The gym rat I talk to justifies my foodie thing by telling me it’s not a disorder if I’m getting paid to do it. A second appetizer, my third cocktail or fourth or fifth slice of pizza is not overindulgent as long as I have a monetary excuse.

Don’t think I’m an overeater all the time. It’s bread and water for me when the chef isn’t worth the indulgence. But a five-course meal someplace like Roy’s or Sidebern’s rate as 5-machines — worth the extra time in the gym.

This week, however, draws me to a simple pie, the most popular American food of all time created by some Italian who improvised by using up some leftover dough.

Pizza, enjoyed for decades of decades, is a must on Super Bowl Sunday, the gigantic eating day of the year –  second only to Turkey Day. My pizza buddies tell me that more pizza was eaten last week than any other, all peaking with Super Sunday delivery.

‘Za gets the nod as:

– The No. 1 Google search word.
– A monthly staple with the typical American
– A mess of slices: some 350 slices get gobbled up each second in the United States.
– Our son’s first words were “pizza, now.”

OK, so I made up the last fact but you get the idea of its importance.

With a craving for a crusted delight, we wandered into downtown’s Pizza Fusion. Open just a month, this small place uses the slogan, “Saving the Earth One Pizza at a Time.”

OK, it’s very green, aggressively hip with hybrid delivery cars, stores built to LEED standards, biodegradable spudware, corn-based salad containers and other environmental initiatives.

Owner Dave Burton wanted to embrace this social responsibility when he was shopping business ideas. He says he was “really impressed with this interesting niche for America’s favorite food and besides that the food is awesome.’’

Pizzas come in three sizes. This large oval 'za shows four flavor choices (from right): free range chicken barbecue; kalamata olive, feta and roasted red onion Greek; sausage and tricolor pepper; and four cheese and sundried tomatoes.

He adds that at least 75 percent of his ingredients are organic. You’ll be smitten with the sundried-tomato-studded pie oozing with buttery-tasting provolone, parmesan, Mozzarella and feta. Briny Kalamata olives, parsley, ripe tomatoes and a carpet of feta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese give a sassy salute to Greek flavors. The dough, shaped in an oval,  is crisp on the outside, yet not too thin or doughy inside.

Another plus: there are lots of vegan choices and even a gluten-free pizza.

A roasted beet with candied walnuts salad with the tantalizing flavor of roasted onion  is a winner as is an arugula and romaine mix enhanced by feta cheese, pears and gorgonzola.

Other choices include a free-range chicken sandwich with basil and provolone and a grilled portobello  (the crimini mushroom’s cousin)  treated to pesto and roasted peppers.

Even though the downtown restaurant has been open only a short time, Burton is already happy with the number of customers. On our weeknight visit, there wasn’t one empty table. And this is downtown Tampa after 6 oclock?

“Business has exceeded my expectations,’’ he adds, and the store is busting the chops of the other Pizza Fusions in Florida  (one  in Westchase and three others in Florida.)

Between the upscale SkyPoint  that brings its condo residents through the door, the Tampa Museum and the new children’s museum, he’s generating return customers.

Burton’s staff  make dough daily. And the sauces and dressings.

Many customers come in for the barbecue chicken swirled with a tomato sauce, roasted red onions and garlic. It was  my least favorite because it was a bit too sweet. A better choice is a fresh vegetable medley of zucchini, portobello mushrooms and artichoke hearts. That’s my way to eat veggies.

Wine, micro beers, natural fountain sodas, and “honest” tea should suit most diners in the beverage department.

Our service wasn’t stellar, but the waitress was friendly enough. Other waiters noticed we were kind of forgotten and stopped to ask about an assist with getting our check.

Sure enough: Burton acknowledges that staffing is every restaurateur’s challenge and asset – depends on the day and the dilemma.

The telephone keeps ringing here. Maybe too often if conversation is a goal. Still, I’ll rate Pizza Fusion: 3 machines.

777 N. Ashley Drive (corner of Zack and Tampa Streets)
Tampa FL 33602

Facebook page

Parking: Wherever you can find.

Fun pizza stuff:

Set the Scene (video): This trio better watch their waist.

Blast boredom (video): There is a pizza one can’t eat.

Rock ‘N Read:  Some poor pizzeria in Boston got hit with a $3,900 tab with a fake Bob Dylan pizza order. A guy wearing a backstage pass ordered 178 pizzas according to the story.

Pizza Fusion at Skypoint on Urbanspoon

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