People and places: ArtiXen Pizza
Author: ed kapp
Xen Gargatzidis, the Queen City’s king of pizza pie
Xenofon Gargatzidis, the man behind ArtiXen and the uncontested Queen City king of pizzas, recently caught up with the Carillon to chat about his life of pie.
Simply enough, do you make the best pizza in Regina?
I don’t really look at it that way. I look at it as I do a completely different pizza than what everybody else is doing in Regina… What I mean is I’m making a wild yeast sourdough pizza and doing it in a way where I basically do it all by hand. It’s proofed for certain amounts of time, including up to weeks, even months. I usually do, on average now, because my culture is getting so strong, probably a week to two-week proofs.
What’s been the best compliment that you’ve received for your pizzas?
The best compliment? Oh, I don’t know. (Laughs) That’s hard because quite a few people have said some interesting things. I don’t really know. People have really gravitated towards it. I had a guy who comes down here from Arizona who was following me on Instagram and Facebook and I ended up finally meeting this guy. He didn’t really tell me who he was, but he ended up buying some pizzas. I ended up making him four shepherd’s pie pizzas and he said it was the best pizza he’d ever had in his life and he’s travelled all over the world. That made me feel really, really, really good.
What’s your favourite meal?
My favourite meal has anything to do with the Vietnamese cooking palate (laughs).
Have you ever tried to integrate Vietnamese cuisine into pizza?
Yes, I’ve actually been working on a pho pizza.
How’s that coming along?
It’s coming along great. I’ve already made one and it’s completely delicious.
Is there anything you won’t put on a pizza?
No, I probably will eventually make a soup pizza. I’ll probably make a pizza bowl. That’s one goal I have. That’s on my bucket list.
Have there been any failures?
Yeah, there have been a couple (laughs)… I tried to do a mushroom soup pizza, but it just turned into mushroom soup (laughs). I really wasn’t creative enough and, yeah, it was a nightmare.
If someone out there is having trouble making pizzas at home, what’s the best advice you can give them?
Piece of advice? It’s repetition, man. Over and over and over again. That’s the best advice – to never stop making it.
How many pizzas do you think you’ve made over the years?
Well, the pan that I use, I’ve had since I was 17, I think, when I got a job at Earl’s. I bought the pan, I think, a few weeks later and I still have that 14-inch pan that I still use.
Based on social media, you’ve established quite a cult following. But overall, how have people taken to ArtiXen?
I’ve gotten to the point now where it’s overwhelmingly amazing. I’ve had the best people coming around and they treat me very well, and I treat them very well with my consistency every week. I think that’s why they’re coming around. They’re very happy; I’ve had nobody complain. And I’m so fortunate and feel so great that I can say that. It makes me so proud to know that I’m working as hard as I am to maintain that consistency. I think that, in the end, is what food is all about. Consistency and not being afraid to wander in the kitchen and experiment.
Is there anything else you’d rather be doing for a living?
Honestly, I wish I was still playing music in a band, touring, and having the excitement of being on stage. That’s something that would be equal and parallel to what I’m doing right now.
At the end of the day, what makes this such a satisfying pursuit for you?
Just pushing it, man… It’s just taking what you want, being so creative and, not only that, but having the farmers and people in the surrounding area who care about their produce that you get into your kitchen. That’s another thing that I really appreciate about being in the prairies. Certain people I know are amazing with that, and that’s definitely amazing.
Do you see the popularity of pizza waning? Or is there unlimited potential for you?
Oh, I think it’s 100 per cent unlimited. There could be franchising, there could be offshoots of ArtiXen. I have lots of ideas, there’s no doubt about that. But the whole point is right now where I am, even if I was here ten years from now, I’d still be really happy because this is what I enjoy. At the end of the day, I’m being creative and I have total freedom. It’s the total punk rock theory – I’m doing stuff myself without always having people help me do it. You can do it yourself as long as you keep rolling, you know? Consistency, like I said, is so important.