Hot chicken tamale. BBQ bacon cheeseburger. Peppercorn chicken ranch. Onion ring burger. Spicy clubhouse. Chicken Caesar. Chili. Taco. Thanksgiving.
Xtreme Pizza is not fucking around.
Nine years ago, a pizzeria named Saluzzo opened in the south end of Halifax. Two years later the decision was made: it needed a name change. They wanted the name to reflect their interests. Those interests? Creating crazy pizza formulations using some kind of word association-based culinary wizardry.
"That was the idea behind the name," says co-owner Shane MacLeod, "to try crazy types of pizza that nobody else was doing. It started to take off and we started to sell more and more pizzas that other people didn't have. And then, as a compliment to us, people even started copying our pizzas."
MacLeod and the other owners of Xtreme have been kicking around in the kitchens of pizzerias for decades, spending just the last one in their own. "We've all worked in the pizza business for, I don't know how many years---myself, I'm on the 24th year---so we just decided to do it for ourselves," he says. "We've all worked in different places over the years and had ideas of stuff to put on pizzas and seeing if people would try it, and if it didn't sell we'd take it off the menu. We just put it on a menu and see how it goes."
The pizza that put Xtreme on the map was also its first original pizza: the Thanksgiving pie, topped with gravy, chicken, stuffing, onions, cheddar and mozzarella. It comes with cranberry sauce on the side. It's a comfort food concept at its best.
But while the extreme pizzas are what have long brought Xtreme Pizza its notoriety and fans, it's actually a combination of crazy and classic that keep people coming back.
"Our basics are our top sellers and we also sell a lot of donair pizza," says MacLeod. "We sell a little bit of everything." He names the bacon cheeseburger, onion ring burger, and taco pizzas as crowd favourites. But, perhaps because it made such a great first impression, that oldest one stands out in the crowd. "The Thanksgiving is a really, really popular pizza," he says.
But there are also some relative failures. A spaghetti and meatball pizza was a eye-catching menu item, but never really caught on in terms of sales. "Spaghetti pizza was on there, but it wasn't selling so we took it off the menu," he says. "But, if someone wanted it any time, we'd still make it."
Their goal is, after all, to make their customers happy. Feedback and input from customers helps drive their creativity. In fact, MacLeod cites customer feedback as the catalyst for the Hero pizza, a progression on the classic donair pizza. "It's a mixture of donair meat and Brother's pepperoni---a lot of people wanted that so we just figured why not make a menu item out of it?
"A lot of the pizzas are just us playing with it a little bit," he says. "Customers or our staff will put in input, so we'll try it out and play with it a little bit. We'll try just about anything."
They also have new ideas cooking. "We have a new one, but we haven't put it out yet," says MacLeod. "Pulled pork.
"It's interesting," he says. "Every day is---it's challenging every day like any business--- but it's different. We also work on different things to do on the short order part of the menu. We're just always trying to come up with something new."