The expansion of restaurant takeout and delivery business is a result of the pandemic. Certified Pies of Little Rock has thrived during the pandemic and continues to roll out its praiseworthy pizza lineup.
Owners Kreg and Samantha Stewart discovered that Kreg’s longtime friend, Harlem Wilson, was a pizza expert. Wilson, who always loved to cook, was an undiscovered pizza wizard until Kreg sampled his creations. Once Kreg tasted Wilson’s pizza, plans were made to establish Certified Pies.
Certified Pies operates out of a concept called a “ghost” kitchen, a professional preparation facility for food consumed off-site. Certified Pies uses Arkitchen — a commercial kitchen owned by entrepreneurs Jon and Victoria Lamb (who is also Manager of Business Operations for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. or AECI) — to produce their pizzas as well as other creations.
Most of our readers don’t live in Little Rock, but those visiting can order a takeout meal from Certified Pies or delivery through Slice or Bite Squad within a 10-mile radius of Certified Pies’ Markham Street location.
This Let’s Eat is a bit different, as the AECI/Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) summer interns at the Little Rock campus assisted. Interns were treated to a smorgasbord of Certified Pies offerings, including the Certified Crispy Chicken Salad, Certified Wings (Buffalo, Certified Truth, honey barbecue and Parmesan ranch) and pizzas. Pizza varieties included specialty options like the Boss Hog, Sweet James Jones, Al Green, Swang and Bang, as well as pepperoni and cheese.
Certified’s crust has a nice, soft texture with a subtle, garlic-butter essence. Very flavorful, it puts chain crusts to shame. Certified’s most popular pie is the Boss Hog, featuring homemade tomato sauce, a five-cheese blend, pepperoni, sausage, beef and bacon. I almost did a Hog call with the interns to celebrate this pizza. The Swang and Bang was equally delicious. It was topped with a five-cheese blend, crispy chicken, bacon, house-made ranch dressing and swirls of Truth Sauce, produced by Arkansan Keith Tucker.
“The pizza was great,” shared AECC intern Solomon Okolie. About the Certified-Truth-flavored wings, which weren’t overly spicy but packed a slightly sweet, spicy flavor punch, he added, they “reminded me of home back in Nigeria.”
Other sauce options include Buffalo, homestyle, honey hot, honey barbecue, teriyaki, lemon pepper and more. My favorite were the Parmesan ranch wings, and AECC/AECI intern Ethan Gardner agreed: “The Parmesan ranch wings were very flavorful. They put a great amount of effort into the wings’ spices to amplify the flavors.”
As for pizza, Ethan added, “The Smooth Operator was my favorite. The sauce and crust both were packed with flavor.”
Like Ethan, I loved the Smooth Operator pie, which included a ranch base, five-blend cheese, chicken and bacon.
AECC/AECI intern Stefan Gradinaru said, “The crust was very inviting. It was soft, chewy and good. The Al Green pizza was amazing.” The Al Green, had an Alfredo base with five-cheese blend, chicken, spinach and tomato.
The Sweet James Jones pizza was unique with an Alfredo sauce base, five-blend cheese, lump crab meat, bacon and green onions. If you like seafood, give this one a try. It might hook you like it did me.
Other specialty pizzas named for music/artists the owners enjoy, include: 400 Degreez (Buffalo chicken), Flyin Hawaiian (Canadian bacon, pineapple, banana peppers), Hole in the Wall (pulled pork), Mixtape (veggie supreme), Album (meat supreme) and Remix (chicken supreme).
The Stewarts and Wilson collaborate on specialty pizzas and constantly adjust the menu to meet the desires of a growing fan base. Of course, traditional pizzas are also available.
The trio has made great strides and has plans for growth. In the words of Wilson, “Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Kreg taught me that.” Amen.