What's the best pizza in South Carolina?
The Food Network Magazine thinks it's the Pistachio Pesto made at EVO in North Charleston. The magazine picked the greatest pizzas in America, one from each state.
EVO has come a long way since co-owners Matt McIntosh and Ricky Hacker began selling pizza from a food cart at the Charleston Farmers Market in 2005.
Hacker says he and McIntosh are fortunate for all the recent national publicity - and for the local attention that EVO has been getting since its food cart days.
"We're real proud of everything we've got," he said, pointing out that the media coverage has come without hired marketing or public relations help. "It's just good old-fashioned hard work."
Hacker and McIntosh met when they both worked at FIG. They began talking about opening their own restaurant.
"We started doing our homework, crunching numbers, getting the legwork out of the way," Hacker said. He was 23 at the time and McIntosh was 26, and they soon decided there was no way to raise enough money to open a traditional restaurant.
That's when they started thinking mobile. They bought a cart, quit their jobs and committed to EVO.
Having to begin with the cart, Hacker says now, was "a blessing in disguise." It gave them a chance to develop their great pizza product and loyal clientele, in a relatively inexpensive way.
In March 2007, they opened EVO in Park Circle. Things have gone so well that they recently hired an executive chef, Matt Russell, who was formerly a sous chef at McCrady's.
Hacker said it was McIntosh who created the Pistachio Pesto pizza. They finely grind pistachios and mix it with olive oil to make a pesto. Then they add goat cheese from Split Creek Farm in Anderson, mozzarella that they themselves in house, and Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy. The pizza is topped with creme fraiche and toasted pistachios.
The menu changes daily at EVO, as Hacker and McIntosh emphasize local ingredients in season. But the Pistachio Pesto pizza is one of four that is always on the menu.