Interview with Esca Gourmet Pizza co-owner Mike Baird
Article by Jason Setnyk | Photo by Jason McNamara
Cornwall Ontario – A year ago Esca Gourmet Pizza + Bar opened its doors.
Mike Baird and his brother-in-law R.J. Payette had the former LCBO building on Pitt Street renovated into a very modern looking restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere.
“Our first year has been an incredible experience. The reaction from the community has been extremely positive and for that we’re very, very grateful,” said Esca Gourmet Pizza co-owner Mike Baird.
The name Esca is the Latin word for food or a dish prepared for the table.
“After weeks of trying to come to a consensus on a name, my sister Alyssa starting putting food related words into a Latin translator. Esca means food, or a dish prepared for the table,” said Mike Baird.
Esca Gourmet Pizza + Bar is a part of a trend in recent years of high-end restaurants opening up in Cornwall.
“That’s probably the result of a few different factors, the city’s commitment to the rejuvenation of downtown among them. In our case, we wanted to open something nice and new, with a menu that could appeal to a broad range of tastes,” said Mike Baird.
The creation of pizza’s on the Esca Gourmet Pizza menu come from a combination of home recipes and inspirations from outside of Cornwall.
“Our selection of pizzas came from both home recipes and different types of pizza we had enjoyed in restaurants outside of Cornwall. Since then we’ve added a few new pizzas that our kitchen staff have come up with. That usually entails taste-testing a few and deciding on the best one. That’s definitely one of the best parts of this job!” explained Mike Baird.
The food and drinks at Esca Gourmet Pizza are purchased locally. Buying local is healthy for the environment, but it is also healthy for the local economy.
“These days people care about just how far their food travels to get to their plate, and with good reason. We always wanted to have a local element to our offerings, from our food to our beer. It promotes quality, and contributes to the local economy,” replied Mike Baird.
Esca Gourmet Pizza, which is turning a year old , is getting involved in the local community, this year participating in both Beer Fest and Food Fest.
“We’ve had the pleasure of working with the Seaway Food Festival on a number of occasions. While discussing the recent La Poutine Week, we inquired with Mani about getting involved with Beer Fest. We’re very excited to be one of the food vendors this year,” Mike Baird recalled.
There are a variety of Ontario craft beers on tap at Esca Gourmet Pizza, and they match nicely with the pizzas on the menu.
“With regard to our taps, our aim is to have variety, and to offer the Ontario craft beers that people want to drink. Given that variety, each one of our pizzas can be paired with one of our beers,” Mike Baird explained.
Beer Fest takes place July 9th at Nav Canada, while Food Fest takes place August 20th in downtown Cornwall.
“We are also participating in Food Fest, and we’re really looking forward to it! Its definitely for a great cause, and we’re anxious to serve up some good food”, said Mike Baird.
Of course Esca Gourmet Pizza is making a name for itself with it’s pizza, but there is more on the menu.
What would Mike Baird recommend besides the pizza?
“That’s a tough one, and it’s making me very hungry, but I’ve narrowed it down to our Esca Burger with house-cut fries or our Smashed Chicken with Gruyere potato stack. Those dishes still make my mouth water,” disclosed Mike Baird.
The success of Esca is in the quality of it’s food, and also the quality of it’s kitchen and wait staff.
“As far as successes go, I’d point to the quality of our food and the quality of our customer service. We have the most amazing staff. We see it every day, and we love hearing the same reaction from our guests,” Mike Baird concluded.
Esca Gourmet Pizza + Bar is located at 317 Pitt Street. It can accommodate 104 guest inside, and another 48 on the patio during the summer months. For more information visit their website.