A Gig Harbor pizza chef cooked up something so tasty, it’s now being served all over the country.
Bryan Liupakka, general manager of the Round Table Pizza, won a companywide contest to create a new pizza recipe. His creation is the Apollo pizza, inspired by a Greek flatbread that many believe was the forerunner to modern pizza.
Liupakka’s pizza made it through multiple rounds of voting by employees and customers before being picked as the winner at a conference of Round Table franchise owners. It’s now on the menu at Round Tables around the U.S.
Bryan Liupakka with an Apollo pizza, fresh out of the oven, at the Gig Harbor Round Table Pizza. Liupakka’s recipe for the pizza won a company-wide contest and is now available in more than 400 Round Tables nationwide. Vince Dice
The Apollo is a Mediterranean pizza with salami, calamata olives, bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, feta cheese and parmesan. Liupakka based the recipe on plankuntos, a Greek flatbread viewed as a precursor to pizza.
“I was trying to think of something that would pay tribute to the origins of pizza,” Liupakka said.
Plankuntos was a round flatbread with an assortment of toppings eaten by ancient Greeks. Liupakka’s research indicated that “Italy took that and ran with it, put red sauce on it. Americans took that and streamlined it. But in my opinion, that (plankuntos) is the origin of pizza.”
His research also required him to source the ingredients to arrive at a sensible price point. The deliciousness of the pizza wouldn’t matter if it got too expensive for people to buy.
Justin Himenes, owner of the Gig Harbor Round Table along with two other Western Washington locations, said the response has been “phenomenal” among his customers.
The Apollo Pizza, created by Bryan Liupakka, general manager of the Gig Harbor Round Table pizza restaurant. Round Table
Himenes came up with the idea to have employees submit recipes for a national pizza contest, with the winner’s creation appearing on menus at Round Tables around the country.
“Coming out of the pandemic, employee morale was really low,” Himenes said. He thought an employee innovation contest would help and called it a “huge success for the first year of the competition.”
Himenes, a Gig Harbor resident, also owns the Cutter’s Point Coffee in Uptown. His other Round Tables in Silverdale and Renton.
Liupakka worked at the Gig Harbor Round Table from 2006 to 2012, left for a time, then came back as the manager a few years ago. He is a 2005 graduate of South Kitsap High in Port Orchard.
Liupakka was excited when he won the contest. “But when it really hit me was when they got ahold of me to do the commercial,” he said.
Round Table featured Liupakka in a commercial, running online and on television around the country. They flew him to California for the voice-over and taping of the ad.
“It was just a really neat experience,” Liupakka said. “I was able to showcase how I do my job. I’ve never done anything like that before.”
He’s had friends and family members call or text him saying they just saw him on TV. Regular customers come into the restaurant to tell him they saw the ad.
“It gives me a real sense of personal pride,” Liupakka said. “If you keep that creativity flowing you can create a menu item that goes nationwide.”
The Apollo is available in more than 400 Round Tables through Sept. 25.
Bryan Liupakka with his Apollo pizza. Round Table
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