Dripping with mozzarella cheese and fresh toppings, each bite of Kenneth Austin's pizza transports us to the Italian pizzerias in the Big Apple. It's pretty surprising, albeit in a good way, to discover that Austin's pizzas are made, sold at and delivered from a 65-square-foot space on East Street in downtown Kingston.
Open for the past four months, Austin's enterprise — Brick Stone Pizza — has fast gained popularity. Residents from the nearby Fletcher's Land and Kingston Gardens communities and even Liguanea and Cherry Gardens, have long since become pizza-adoring converts, as have government and corporate offices in downtown and New Kingston. Austin, who returned to The Rock last year after living overseas for almost three decades, feels the breakout success of his pizza lies in its base — the chewy ‘sponge’ dough. “It's a recipe that I learnt working for Italians in the basement of a pizzeria in New York for seven years,” he divulges when Thursday Food paid him a visit earlier this week. “The sponge dough I use is an Italian recipe passed down from generations and is originally from Italy,” he tells us, bringing a bag of the soft dough from the refrigerator to examine and press to seemingly validate his claims.
The well-natured Austin, christened 'Miss Kitty's Pizza Man' by the 'Fluffy Diva' broadcaster Khadene Hylton herself, is no slouch in the kitchen when it comes to making his pizzas. He twirls the dough mid-air with dexterity, layers on marinara sauce and sprinkles on toppings. Austin's restaurant space may be small (there are three stools inside) but he compensates with a big taste. So big in fact, that on Friday nights, cars line the street and long lines are all but commonplace for the restaurant that can be found on the right corner just before approaching the stoplight at North Street.
Austin shares that while he's pleased with the level of customer traction he has garnered in the relatively short time, his pizzeria is still in upgrade mode. Currently, a stone oven is used to make the pizzas (hence its taste) but come next week, he should have a new oven installed that is outfitted with bricks. “Each pizza has a personality,” he explains, noting that it was a mantra oft-repeated by the Italians he worked for in New York. “With good pizza, when you bite into it, the taste should stir something,” he notes.
The pizza-maker is also keen on laying a foundation to assist those who work with him, hoping someday they can possibly inherit the business and keep it going. Joylyn Gordon, who preps the toppings, and Ranaldo Porteous, the deliveryman, both have other jobs, but Austin values his employees' input and says he has no problem grooming them to succeed him, if they are so interested.
As he spills details about future possibilities, the 50-year-old Austin is momentarily interrupted by customers — young boys from the community eager to purchase piping hot, extra tasty slices of pizza. “We love the pizza because it's cheesy and tastes really good,” young Kimani Malcolm tells Thursday Food. The anticipation we see in his eyes says it all.
Brick Stone is located at 150 East Street, Kingston.
For delivery orders, call 854-1384.