AUBURN — Corwin St. Pierre was working as a gas station/garage manager in Massachusetts when his uncle made a life-changing suggestion.

Really, it might have been more of an order.

“He called me up one day and said, ‘Hey, move up near me and open a restaurant,” St. Pierre recalled. “I said, ‘OK,’ and moved up here and opened a restaurant.”

Owning a business had never crossed St. Pierre’s mind. He was 27 years old and happy working on cars. But St. Pierre did love to cook — a skill he learned from his uncle, a foodie who lived in Auburn and loved passing on the family’s pizza making history.

Despite St. Pierre’s complete lack of entrepreneurship and professional cooking experience, opening a restaurant made a surprising amount of sense. At least trying it did.

“It was the quintessential perfect time of not being tied down to anything to just say, ‘Screw it, I’m going to go up to Maine and open a restaurant with my significant other.’ It was perfect. Other than that, it never would have crossed my mind, especially a one-man show like this,” he said.


For the past year, St. Pierre has been owner, chef and sole employee of Cibo, an 18-seat cafe located on the lowest level of the Auburn Public Library. He bakes the brioche buns, ginger cookies and pizza crust from scratch. He chops all the vegetables. He roasts whole chickens and pulls apart the meat for chicken salad sandwiches, and he does the same for his 14-hour slow-roasted pulled pork. He crafted his own vegan pepperoni and cashew-based Alfredo sauce for vegan pizza lovers. He serves customers, creates the menu, keeps track of the money.

Fourteen- to 16-hour days have been common, including days when he’s closed to the public but still has to prep for the week ahead.

He loves it.

“I like the quality of this place being a one-man show. I think it’s an interesting thing to come see, come watch, when there are 15 people waiting for sandwiches and I’m here dancing through the kitchen making all this happen,” St. Pierre said.

Cibo — pronounced CHEE-bo, the Italian word for food — opened a year ago as a standard cafe with coffee and a choice between a breakfast sandwich and a roast beef sandwich. As St. Pierre tried new things in the kitchen, Cibo’s menu quickly evolved.

Meatball sub with homemade meatballs and homemade red sauce. Sandwiches on scratch-made brioche buns that take St. Pierre three days to make and use nine sticks of butter per batch. Soft ginger cookies baked with hand-ground fresh ginger root.


“(Customers’) eyes light up when they take their first bite,” St. Pierre said. “That’s another reason why I love running my own business, I get to see that.”

Then came pizza.

Thirty times a day, St. Pierre stretched dough and tossed it in Cibo’s oven, practicing to get pizzas done faster and with more consistency. When he felt confident enough, he began giving away slices. Tell me what you think, he told customers. Be honest, he implored.

What they thought, honestly: They needed more pizza.

“People wanted pizza more and more for lunch. And they wanted crazy toppings,” St. Pierre said. “So I went for it.”

People asked for taco pizza. Big Mac burger pizza. Breakfast burrito pizza. And there was the friend who wanted dill pickle pizza.


“Dill pickle pizza threw me off, I will admit that. It’s not something I thought I’d want to sell to a customer,” St. Pierre said. “I thought people would turn their noses up and be like, ‘Don’t go to that Cibo place. They have gross pizza.'”

But St. Pierre researched recipes and discovered that pickle pizza was a thing. Like everything in Cibo, St. Pierre made it his own, with fresh dill, homemade garlic Alfredo sauce and scallions sprinkled across the top to cut the saltiness and add color.

“It’s the best seller. It’s the damnedest thing,” he said. “And I am totally OK with that.”

He’s OK with pickle pizza himself now, too. It’s become a personal favorite.

“It’s absolutely killer,” St. Pierre said.

(Not to leave out anyone, he created a vegan version of his popular dill pickle pizza. It has a special cashew-based Alfredo sauce.)


St. Pierre’s business plan always called for an eventual move toward pizza, but his pies and slices proved so popular so quickly that he’s moved up that timeline.

Starting this September, he’s adjusted his hours to a uniform 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with pizza available for both lunch and dinner. He’s dropped a couple of his most time-intensive sandwiches, like the slow-roast pulled pork, but has added a half-dozen regular specialty pizzas, including vegan mushroom Florentine. He also offers weekly specials and pizza by the slice. Those sandwiches he dropped from the regular menu will appear sometimes among the weekly specials.

He still makes everything from scratch.

Well, almost everything.

“I’m not pickling my own pickles,” he said. “I’m not going to that level.”

Corwin St. Pierre bakes his own brioche rolls at Cibo. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Cibo’s signature dill pickle pizza. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Corwin St. Pierre cuts a dill pickle pizza at Cibo, in the basement of the Auburn Public Library. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Corwin St. Pierre pulls a dill pickle pizza out of the oven at Cibo, in the basement of the Auburn Public Library. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: