This Pizza Delivery Boat Is Taking New York Slices to the High Seas
Hungry for pizza, but stranded on a boat in the US Virgin Islands? No problem—just take your dinghy down to Pizza Pi, the first serious slicery on the Caribbean seas.
You can get pizza just about anywhere. Small towns, big cities, airports, malls. Norway, Japan, Morocco, the Galapagos Islands—name any place in the world, and you'll find a restaurant somewhere around there that delivers some rendition of a cheesy, piping-hot pie.
But picking it up or having it delivered requires transportation, at least on someone's end. Which is why ordering pizza from a home on the water can be tricky—unless you happen to live in the US Virgin Islands.
Pizza Pi is the US Virgin Islands' first commercial-grade "food truck boat," and it's just as delightful as you might imagine. Emblazoned with a large flag that says "FRESH PIZZA Made to Order" and a hanging menu on its hull, it's hard to miss this floating pizzeria. And if you want to try one of their New York-style pies, all you have to do is hail them on your boat's hand radio, give them a call, or shoot an email. When you're ready to eat, hop in your dinghy and head to the pick-up window.
Pizza Pi is owned and operated by Sasha and Tara Bouis, two expats who ditched their day jobs for island life and never looked back. When they found a 37-foot gutted boat that was dying for renovation, they transformed it into both a floating home and a commercial kitchen, complete with a double brick-lined oven, a DIY water marker, and a ventilation system. It took two years to complete the process, but the boat doubles as an adorable floating home, outfitted with beds and lounge space. Now it spends its days tucked away in St. Thomas' Christmas Cove, slinging pizza, ice cream, and other comfort foods to happy customers who sail—or swim—up to its window.
On top of that, their pizzas are anything but boring. Take the Carbonara, layered with chopped artichoke and mozzarella and topped with bacon, peas, and white sauce. Or the Blumin Onion, made with lemon aioli instead of tomato sauce and loaded with leeks, radicchio, blue cheese, and honey.
Thinking of abandoning your day job yet and fleeing for the islands? Us too. We caught up with Sasha and Tara as they made their daily rounds of the Pi life.
MUNCHIES: What was the pivotal moment or experience that convinced you to leave your Wall Street job and head for life on the seas? Sasha Bouis: I was feeling less challenged and less fulfilled by my cubicle job every day, so I was taking longer and longer walks during my lunch break. I was also sick and tired of the New York's winter weather. It must have been one of the first nice spring days when my daily walk took me past a sailing school where I realized that I already knew how to sail and could probably teach there, so I went in and applied for a job. I started working there on the weekends, and the pivotal moment came when the sailing school sent an email requesting instructors for an event on a weekday and mentioned that "lunch would be provided." I called in sick that day and quit my office job soon thereafter.
How or when exactly did you two first meet? We met when we were both working at a sailing and SCUBA summer camp in the British Virgin Islands. Tara was teaching SCUBA and I was teaching sailing as we lived aboard a 45' sailing catamaran with a dozen teenagers for three weeks at a time. Tara and I realized that we enjoyed the weather and the lifestyle and working together so we sought out jobs on charter sailboats in the BVI. The boats were basically like summer camp for adults, a floating guesthouse where we sailed the guests around for a week while Tara prepared high-end gourmet food.
How did inspiration strike to launch a pizza boat? We had just dropped off the guests after another week and we were both exhausted. We were anchored in our favorite cove to watch the sunset. Tara didn't feel like cooking and I did not want to take the small boat in to shore to look for food. We could only muster the energy to make some microwave popcorn and sat on the boat dreaming about a floating pizzeria at anchor nearby where we could easily get dinner. We pitched the idea to a number of friends but nobody built it, so we realized that we would have to do it ourselves.
Are food delivery boats a common thing in the Caribbean? There is one food delivery boat, but they only sell warm beer by the case, pre-packaged muffins, and ice. There is no other boat like ours in the world. We have a fully-licensed commercial-grade pizza kitchen on a sailboat. A real food truck on the water.
What culinary background did you have prior to opening Pizza Pi? Tara is an award-winning chef and has been working on yachts for over ten years. I had no culinary background, but Tara and I attended pizza school in New York City after building the boat but prior to serving pizza.
What are the unique challenges that you face while preparing pizza in a boat environment? When we found the boat, it had no interior at all. It had been abandoned for ten years and termites ate all the insides. Fortunately the hull is aluminum so it was intact. We did all the rebuilding by ourselves, from the design to the woodworking to the systems.
The boat is constantly in motion, even at anchor, so every door and drawer needs a lock or latch. We had to install latches on the heavy, hot doors of the pizza oven, so they wouldn't fly open and burn anyone! We did a lot of research on equipment. Not only did the galley (kitchen) need to be commercial-grade, but also marine grade. The oven is electric and is powered by a diesel generator.
What are your typical customers like? Our customers are often tourists who are on vacation in the Virgin Islands and are taking a boat trip and stop by for lunch, but we also cater to people who live on their boats long-term. We get people swimming up and asking for pizza!
What are your most popular pizzas / dishes? Which ones are your favorites? Tara likes to change the menu every few months, but we keep the standard Plain Jane to which you can add any number of toppings (including lobster). We offer a few specialty pies including the Cubano which is just like a Cuban sandwich (smoked pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard sauce). One of our more popular pizzas on the previous menu was the Dalai Lama ("Make me one with everything").
Overall, what has the experience been like since you set sail in November? It has been awesome! The response is great, not only because people love pizza but because we are really passionate about pizza and it shows. We didn't just want to be the best pizza on a boat, we want to be the best pizza in the Caribbean. The reviews agree!
Thanks for talking with us.
- food trucks
- Virgin Islands
- pizza pi
- Sasha Bouis
- Tara Bouis