Inside the new Pizza Artista, defined by Cajun influences and a topping-rich environment

Baton Rouge’s pizza landscape is thriving, and the latest player to enter the scene is Pizza Artista. The interactive, quick-fired concept opened in Rouzan near Sprouts just last week. It was originally developed in Lafayette in 2015 by pizza industry veterans who say they wanted to create something different.

“We’re all about using traditional Louisiana ingredients—things like tasso, andouille, boudin and fresh shrimp, crab and crawfish,” co-founder Scott McKlaskey says. Those emblematic Bayou State staples are joined by a lengthy list of proteins, veggies, gourmet cheeses, crust options, sauces and finishes—generous raw materials to DIY your way to a memorable personal pie.

If the options overwhelm, let the house orchestrate. Curated specialty pizzas include the eight-meat-mosaic Classic Cajun, and the Asian, whose thin layer of Thai peanut sauce is topped with mozzarella, chunks of roast chicken, green onion, carrots, cilantro and crumbled peanuts. Another go-to is the Fig-N-Awesome, a smattering of fig bits, bacon and tasso over gooey Brie and provolone with red pepper flakes and a drizzle of Steen’s Cane Syrup. The kid in you may drool for the Squeelin-Mac-N-Cheese, which marries mac with, yes, more cheese, along with the porky goodness of bacon and tasso.

Pizza Artista’s Fig-N-Awesome pizza balances sweet and savory flavors.
Nine toppings and a squirt of fresh lime define Pizza Artista’s Caribbean Chicken & Mango.

Fresh fruit and heat defines the Caribbean Chicken & Mango, a pie that starts with garlic and olive oil and ends with nine toppings, balsamic glaze and a squirt of fresh lime juice. Is nine toppings too many for one pie? you might ask.

Actually, no. McKlaskey and his partners, wife Cynthia McKlaskey and Kirk Miller, developed a crust formula that holds up with toothsome confidence, no matter how many meats, veggies and extra stuff you pile on. Each pie is fired in full view while you wait, and is ready in less than four minutes.

Interactive amenities abound in the new eatery. Walk in, and place your order by tapping the screens that greet you at the door or by scanning the tabletop QR code to pull up the restaurant’s POS system. (You can also order the old-fashioned way at the counter.) To order a beer, show proof of ID, receive a card and proceed to the wall of taps, where a card reader will let you pull away. A screen above each tap tells you something about your beer selection.

Inside the new Pizza Artista

While you dine, download the Rockbot app and request your favorite music on the sound system. And kids will love the station where they can tear off their own interactive table paper and insert their hands into a timed, double-barreled hand washer for a jolt of pre-meal hygiene (a convenient amenity for adults, too).

Pizza is, of course, the main event here, but the menu also features specialty and made-to-order calzones, salads, and inventions called pasta bread bowls, which celebrate carbohydrates in next-level fashion. The Cajun Shrimp Bread Bowl combines small shrimp with penne in a tasso-spiked Alfredo sauce with purple and green onion and a finish of sea salt. All that creaminess is set into a bowl made of seasoned bread. Wings are also a popular item here. Choose from five different sauces.

Pizza Artista is at 4831 Rouzan Ave., Suite C. The restaurant is open daily. Find more info at pizzaartista.com.