By: Liz Shepard
Rhino’s Pizzeria’S Big Dill Pizza in New York. (Photo: Tracy Malloy)
LEXINGTON – It’s hard to not love pizza.
The crunch of a good crust, melted gooey mozzarella, some Parmesan and maybe basil and garlic.
And the endless choice in toppings. But a new trend has emerged and a local company is its surprising foundation. A pickle covered pizza recently hit internet stardom, with one video of its crafting at a New York pizzeria earning more than 26 million views.
Those pickles covering the viral pizza were produced in Lexington.
“It was pretty awesome to see obviously, but never in a million years did I think a pickle pizza would get 26 million views,” said Marc Gielow, Gielow Pickles’ farm and logistics manager.
Gielow is the fifth generation of his family to produce pickles and peppers in Lexington.
“We don’t cut corners and make a cheap product, we try to make a good quality product at a reasonable price,” he said. Gielow said most people don’t realize how widely his family’s pickles are distributed.He said the company employs between 300 and 350 people. The pickles they make are used by chains including Subway and Jersey Mikes and are sold by Gordon Food Services and Sysco.
If you want to buy them locally, you have to catch them at either the Port Huron or Port Austin farmers markets. Gielow said they no longer sell retail at the Lexington location, as the business has grown too big. Annually, the company produces about 25 million pounds of banana peppers and close to one million bushels of cucumbers.
And they’re getting bigger.
Gielow said annual growth is between 20 percent and 25 percent each year. “It’s a great feeling to know people love what we do. Obviously we have a passion for it because we’ve been doing it for five generations,” he said.
“To see other people love it is awesome.” Anyone looking to enjoy a pickle pizza with the Gielow Pickles is in luck.
The team at Sweetwater Gourmet Deli and Bakery in Lexington decided to offer a pickle pizza as a special one weekend this month.
Leiza Lee, one of the Sweetwater employees, said it was a collaboration of ideas that formed the garlic crust pizza with layers of olive oil, mozzarella, Gielow pickles, garlic, dill and topped it with ranch dressing.
But the plan to offer it only for the weekend didn’t go over well. “It kind of blew up,” said Nicole Graham, who saw the viral pickle pizza post. With the traditional components plus the delicious, the salty, crunchy, thin pickle chips take the pizza to a whole different level.
Graham said people are still coming in and requesting it, so Sweetwater is continuing to make it.
“Really cool to hear the feedback,” she said, which included “Everything I needed to complete my day.”
Lee said it was fun to hear so many people excited about the pickle pie. “It’s kind of exciting, something new and they like it,” she said.
While Sweetwater appears to be the first local eatery to offer a pickle pizza, the New York pizzeria that started the trend is continuing to pack in the orders for the Gielow-covered pies.
In August, New York based Rhino’s Pizzeria posted photos of its pickle covered pizza on Instagram, with the hashtag #BreakTheInternet. Tracy Malloy, owner of Rhino’s Pizzeria in New York, said going viral has been intense. “It’s been crazy, very crazy,” she said by phone Thursday.
Similar to Sweetwater’s story, Malloy said creating the pickle-covered pizza was a group effort sparked by an employee’s daughter who brought the idea home from a Pennsylvania pickle festival.
“It went crazy,” Malloy said of the release of the Big Dill Pizza, adding people have traveled from across the country to try it. While Rhino’s and Sweetwater’s pies are a bit different, they do share the same key component — the Gielow pickles. “They just have a really good flavor and they’re very thin, they’re not too thick,” Malloy said. “Just a really good pickle.”
She said their secret garlic sauce is also a key piece of the pie. Since going viral, they’ve started bottling and selling it at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Rhinossauces.
Marc Gielow said he hasn’t yet tried a pickle pizza, but he and his family are all fans of the product they’ve been making for so long.
“I have two boys who are pickle enthusiasts,” he said.