Have a mind-blowing meal and you might take to social media to tell the world it was life-changing. But when Stuart Hillman and his wife Melisa sunk their teeth into a Score Pizza, it really did change their lives.
After devouring their pie, they decided they wanted to own and operate a franchise of the Kingston-born pizzeria here in St. Catharines.
“I’ve eaten a lot of pizza. I love pizza,” Stuart said. “It doesn’t take a lot to sell me on pizza, but it’s the concept [of Score].”
So what is it that made it so good the duo decided to stake their livelihoods on it? It’s that they — and anyone who comes through their year-old St. Paul Street location — can make a pizza their own.
Score Pizza’s calling card is the build-your-own pizza concept. With more than 40 toppings, including vegan options, the end results are, well, endless. It doesn’t hurt that you can choose as many toppings as you want, either, and have a pie ready to eat in mere minutes.
But a word of warning from the experienced Stuart, who eats a Score Pizza nearly every day. “It’s thin crust pizza. You put too much on it, it’s going to fall apart in the oven and it’s not a pizza anymore,” he said. Still, Score Pizza is scoring with everyone from the unabashed topper to the more modest pizzaiolos. For the entirely unsure pizza builder, there are six signature pies with the toppings already decided, but even those can be customized.
Score is a win among the topping hesitant too, including veggie-averse kids coming with their parents for a bite during a family night out. “It’s a fun concept,” Stuart said. “There’s something about them being able to see it, seeing [toppings] going on their pizza. I can’t tell you the number of times a parent has said ‘They don’t eat mushrooms’ but then their kids ask for mushrooms.”
He’s hopeful there will be many more asking for mushrooms — and pepperoni, vegan sausage, basil, mozzarella and all their favourites — on Sunday, Nov. 21. That day marks Score Pizza’s one-year anniversary in St. Catharines.
To celebrate, Stuart and his team will serve up their 12-inch stone-fired ’zas for $10 all day. It’s his way of saying thank you to St. Catharines and Niagara for supporting Score Pizza, which opened its doors in the midst of the pandemic.
It took nearly three years from that first bite in Kingston to launch in St. Catharines. But there was no question the couple wanted to do it downtown. Both are big boosters of the core with Score Pizza on one end of St. Paul and Melisa’s eco-friendly store, Pocket Change, serving as an anchor near Geneva Street. Both are committed to the downtown with Melisa collaborating with other local businesses, including Dispatch restaurant, to make an often-overlooked stretch of St. Paul Street more inviting. Stuart and Score regularly donate to the Bear Clan Patrol STC, an Indigenous-led community group providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to the city centre.
“I couldn’t ask for a better community,” Stuart said. “Everyone’s very supportive and everyone unites to help, too. We’re happy to be part of the community here and happy to give back.” That includes giving back by coaching anyone new to Score Pizza through the build-your-own process.
“For me, it’s a couple meats and veggies — chicken, bacon, caramelized onions, a drizzle at the end. You can’t go wrong,” Stuart said. “You can have just a pepperoni pizza and it’s delicious, too, because it’s good quality pizza.”
Life-changing, in fact.
Author: Tiffany Mayer
Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara