Restaurant

Paul McGlade Jr Of Little Pyg On His Award For Best Pizza In Ireland

By Robert McHugh
Paul McGlade Jr Of Little Pyg On His Award For Best Pizza In Ireland

Paul McGlade Jr of Little Pyg speaks to Robert McHugh about his passion for food and his plans for the future.

Little Pyg, in Dublin 2, was recently celebrated at the Pizza Europa Awards in Madrid for having the number-one pizza in Ireland for the second year running.

The restaurant is the only Irish restaurant to make the top 50 for two years in a row, and it was also named number 15 in all of Europe. Little Pyg will now compete for the top global pizzeria accolade at the World Championships in Naples, in September 2024.

Paul McGlade Jr, Little Pyg’s owner, recently spoke to Hospitality Ireland about assembling his staff from all over the world, his passion for real Italian food, and his time in India.

Little Pyg was voted the number-one pizza in Ireland for the second year running at the recent Pizza Europa Awards. How does it feel to win such an accolade?

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It is good for the whole food scene in Ireland because it is the first time that an Irish establishment has been recognised at the awards twice in a row.

I think it is a testament to where the Irish food scene is at, globally. In Ireland, ten years ago, no one really talked about us, food-wise. Now, when I travel, everyone is talking about Ireland as a food destination, which shows what is going on here.

People didn’t really talk about us, but now they are. I am not even talking about our award, but just in general. In Dublin and all around the country, there is an amazing range of different cuisines being served to a really high level.

You are very particular about your staff, and even made trips to Italy to recruit your chefs. Tell us more about this process.

We cook our pizzas in the pizzaiolo style, and, obviously, the pizzaiolo style is unique to Naples, in Italy.

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I spent a lot of time in Naples, recruiting the right team. Some Italian people did not want to come to Ireland because of the weather. That was the biggest drawback. We lost some staff because of that. They just found they could not adjust to the climate!

We have got a great team now. I had to provide them with accommodation in Dublin, to help them settle in here. They are enjoying their life here. I said to these guys, “You are competing against the best in Europe.”

Now we are going to the World Championships in Naples in September. It’s like a football team playing in the Champions League. They are playing against the best, which is great motivation for them.

Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.

I am from Ireland. I have lived abroad. I used to play football, so I lived in a few different countries, but I have been in the hospitality game for 19 years.

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I had hotels, restaurants and bars in India, specifically in Mumbai and Goa. I came back to Ireland just over ten years ago.

What brought you to India?

I had a finance business at the time in Ireland, in 2008. It was quite successful, but then the crash happened, globally, and I was literally out of business overnight.

Myself and my family invested in India a year before that. I thought I would go to India to see what was going on with our different investments. I ended up staying and doing business. I opened hotels, restaurants and bars. I ended up living there for six and a half years.

What would you consider your first major role?

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I had a job after I left college, working in student accommodation for a property company. That was a great experience. I met an American guy doing finance. I liked his ideas, and we ended up teaming up. We opened a global finance company, providing finance for people all around Europe. It went really well, and we were expanding to multiple countries, and then the crash happened.

What drew you to hospitality?

I have always been intrigued with food. I love aesthetics. I love designing things.

My time in India just kind of happened. I knew there was a gap in the market for a really high-end boutique hotel. I opened a place there, and then I opened more restaurants and bars, serving the kind of cuisines that I liked. I designed everything myself.

What do you enjoy most about your job, presently?

I love the challenge. Hospitality is a hard game. I find that there is only so much you can do yourself. You need a good team behind you.

What makes a great restaurant?

Consistency. You have to be consistent with staff and customers. That is more difficult than it sounds when there are challenges.

What do you think are the main challenges at present?

The rising costs in hospitality in Ireland. It’s very hard. You can have a successful business which is still losing money. The cost of doing business here is very expensive. That’s the biggest challenge.

Do you have a business motto?

Don’t be afraid to change. Hospitality is like fashion: you have got to be adaptable and prepared to change. You cannot be the same as always. You have to be flexible.

What do you like to do when you are not working?

I like to play sports. It is my passion and my meditation. It used to be football. At the moment, I really enjoy paddle tennis. I am addicted to it!

What is the next chapter for Little Pyg?

We are going to open in Madrid. We have been offered multiple locations around Ireland, which I plan to look at in more detail. We would like to open in other cities around Europe.

What is your favourite topping on a pizza?

It is funny, but I love a classic Margherita. It is very simple, and if a chef can’t do a Margherita right, they won’t get anything else right. In the summer, we have a pizza with Parma ham and rocket leaves, which is amazing.

One of our most successful pizzas has 50% less calories than a normal pizza because of the produce that we use, and the dough. I only eat our pizzas because when you try a pizza abroad, you feel heavy after it, whereas with ours, you don’t.

Pizza is different in Italy. In Ireland, it is still viewed as fast food, but in Italy, they eat pizzas two or three times a week. The produce is very good. It is gradually changing, but when people think of pizza, they think of fast food. The fast-food pizza chains we have in Ireland would not survive in Italy. They [the Italians] know good produce and won’t settle for anything less. It will happen in Ireland, but it takes time.