Hathian’s Pie Hole pizzeria on Battle St. has seen a frequent change of hands, but the latest owner is not about to let it go. Sofia Messina bought the establishment in October and has since worked to retain its position as a pivotal feature in the metropolitan area.
Messina is no stranger to the food industry. Prior to the pizzeria she owned and operated Sofia’s Bar Lounge. The Lounge’s taxing and difficult work prepared Messina for a new venture in an old property.
“We had a selection of traditional Italian bar foods,” Messina recounts of her lounge, “And then a street kitchen attached, and at one point, a pizzeria. The Pie Hole is still hard work, but a fraction of what the lounge was, and the location is even better. I had to take it, and I am glad that I did.”
Messina also found success in owning Rougarou Rise rentals and Bella Pellegrina Liquors. Despite her current fortune, she was not always well off.
Messina, an Italian immigrant, arrived to this country without direction. Homeless, living on the streets, she relied upon the charity of others to survive. If not for the opportunity of working in a Manhattan bar, she might not have escaped poverty. Messina credits the bar’s owners for teaching her how to come up in America.
“I had to learn how to speak with people, in my second language, and how to do everything on my own. And I learned at a very young age how to appreciate acts of kindness, etiquette, and just how to treat people.”
She has since applied these lessons to her business model.
“I carried that through to how I run my business. I never turn people away and I try to empathize with all walks of life. And I truly enjoy being around people. What more to life is there, than making connections with others and enjoying good food?”
Messina takes a customer forward approach to business. Recently she allowed customers to suggest and vote upon additions to the Pie Hole menu.
“I started to research what is American pizza. Though there are so many different traditions, so many states with their own cultures… you must ask the people who live there. So then I thought, that is exactly what I must do here! I want the menu to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. So, I made it so they could have the opportunity to choose.”
Menu suggestions had many surprising ingredients, many of which were unfamiliar to Messina.
“I never knew what a crawfish was until Miss Weymann suggested it. And a moon pie? I had no idea!”
Though Messina has just recently learned of Hathian’s local delicacies, such as moon pies, cream pies still elude her. She however is eager to share and celebrate in the local culture as well as bring in her own.
The Pie Hole’s atmosphere is an eclectic combination of an Italian trattoria and a rustic eatery mixed with Hathian kitsch. It is not out of place nor character for the city. The restaurant is interesting enough with the appeal of Italian and Louisianan fusion cuisine. Their slogan, “Love pizza, be pizza,” epitomizes the establishment.
“To be is the most simplest of verbs,” Messina explains, “It just is. We do something simply by being. Food is life and life is love.”
If food is love, then Chef Fiammetta is the pizzeria’s beating heart. Many call her Nonna, and she likes that, for she sees herself as everyone’s grandmother. At times she may be abrasive, but she does mean well, and her culinary skills make up for the lack of tact.
The Pie Hole is is open to anyone looking for a warm atmosphere or even occupation.
“We trial our workers,” Messina says of her staff, “Offer fair wages, and even free meals during their working hours. All I ask for is honesty and passion for the job.”
Positions for clerks, drivers, and a manager are open for hire. Messina expects aspiring managers to share her work ethic.
The Pie Hole offers more opportunities than work and fine dining. On February 22nd, Messina and her restaurant will host Hathian Carnival 2020. Food, drinks, a community market, music, dancing, and street acts are expected features. Anyone interested in participating should contact Sofia Messina or Loz Weymann, owner of Lou’s Bar on Hathian Highway.