LINCOLN SQUARE — We don't know when Pi Day became a thing and we don't care, as long as it means free pie.
First Slice Pie Cafe is honoring its mathematical homonym by giving away pieces of pie to all customers standing in line on 3.14 at 3:14 p.m. The deal is available at all three First Slice locations — Andersonville, Ravenswood and Ravenswood Manor.
"We're always up for any pie-related celebration," said Ann-Louise Haak, First Slice interim executive director.
"Our bakers are some pretty astounding pie machines. We're in full-throttle pie mode this week."
For Ninfa Ortiz, head baker at First Slice, and her assistant, Willie Murry, Wednesday was just another day at the office. Ortiz, a native of Ecuador, separated eggs for custard fillings while Murry mixed together a batch of streusel topping.
Were they ready for a pastry stampede?
"One day they'll work on crust, the next day on fillings," said R.J. Dionisio, manager of the First Slice Ravenswood cafe, located on the ground floor of Lillstreet Art Center.
The pair typically churn out 20 pies of any given flavor at a time. First Slice offers 12-14 varieties, according to Haak, ranging from Chocolate Peanut Butter to Michigan Sour Cherry.
Just don't ask Murry to choose a favorite — it's like asking parents which child they love most.
"Once you're here and you have the opportunity to taste everything, the one favorite becomes everything," he said.
"The smell of it, the aroma, my mouth just starts watering."
Murry isn't alone.
"I think, in part, it seems like pie is having a second comeback," said Haak, who's seen an increase in couples ordering "pie tables" for their weddings.
"There's something about pie. It's comfort food, it's so often associated with holidays and recipes handed down through generations."
This communal aspect made pie the perfect symbol for First Slice, which harbors a social as well as culinary mission. Proceeds from the cafes and a meal subscription program fund First Slice's outreach efforts, providing food to hundreds of homeless and needy individuals each week.
"It's guilt-free pie," joked Haak. "And it's free."