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To say Pappas Pizza Pi is unusual is probably an understatement. Menu items include spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), pizzas, calzones and sandwiches. Toppings include boudin, alligator sausage, crawfish and lamb. But for owner Terry Pappas, the mix comes naturally.
"My dad is Greek," Pappas said. "My mother is from New Orleans, so I ate a lot of Louisiana cuisine, whether it was Creole or Cajun, (that) my mother and grandmother cooked."
The coupling of those home-cooked meals from very different cultures fueled a love of food for Pappas.
"Me and my wife, we loved eating," Pappas said. "We didn't care what it cost as long as it was good.
"We just loved eating. We always tried different cuisines."
After a career in law enforcement and the Air Force, Pappas decided to follow the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, a Greek immigrant who came to America and opened a restaurant.
"I finally did what I wanted to do," Pappas said. "I always wanted to go into the restaurant business because my grandfather was in the restaurant business.
"He was my inspiration. We opened in Orange Beach in 2013. We had a very big restaurant in Orange Beach. We were in the top 10 locally. We were No. 1 on TripAdvisor."
But soon after, his business partner was diagnosed with an illness that left him unable to work. Pappas made the decision to close the restaurant and relocate to Brookhaven, where he owned real estate and had family ties. That move, however, brought challenges.
"Being in Mississippi, especially southwest Mississippi, is difficult," Pappas said. "It's rural. It's difficult to be exotic."
So Pappas began toying with flavors Mississippians were accustomed to, though few would have thought to combine them with pizza. One combined marinated catfish with another local favorite that surprised customers.
"People couldn't believe we had a catfish and collard green pizza," Pappas said.
Due to the relatively short shelf life of collards, the pizza isn't always on the menu.
"(You) only have a day or two with collard greens," Pappas said. "So, we do it on special occasions."
What is on the menu is a wide variety of pizzas to suit different tastes. The Ragin' Cajun has toppings such as alligator sausage, boudin, grilled chicken and crawfish tails. To kick it up another notch, jalapeño peppers provide heat.
The Wild Greek pizza pulls flavors from his father's side of the family, with ingredients such as kalamata and black olives, feta cheese, grilled chicken and spinach.
Other specialty pizzas sport names such as the Hawaii Five-0, The Southern BBQ, The Caprese, The Veggie and The Meatie.
Then there is Pappas' most popular pizza, The Mega Deca, which is piled high with more traditional toppings like pepperoni, ham, beef, sausage, bacon, green peppers, onions and mushrooms.
"That's our No. 1 seller," Pappas said. "It's not drowned in cheese and sauce. I want you to be able to taste all the flavors when you put them together."
And Pappas is picky about what his customers taste. That means chopping fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms daily.
"Everything is fresh," Pappas said. "We chop enough for about a day and a half. It just makes the product fresher."
On the sandwich menu, customers find more traditional offerings like grilled chicken, club, steak and cheese, turkey and meatball sandwiches. Customers can choose between Gambino's French bread or pizza crust.
"We sell a lot of sandwiches, especially at this location," Pappas said of his second restaurant he recently opened in Crystal Springs. "It's a matter of good ingredients."
Salads also get special treatment. Pappas uses Ruby Acadian lettuce, which he said is often found at upscale restaurants, and pays particular attention to the dressings that top them.
"Some of the dressings are our own recipes," Pappas said. "The ranch is made here, but it's not our recipe.
"The Italian, the honey mustard and the Greek are our own recipes. Homemade always tastes better."
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