I love pizza.
Pretty bold statement, right? After all, it’s pretty hard to find a person who doesn’t. Cheese and sauce housed on a crust with a variety of different toppings like mushrooms, sausage, pepperoni, and peppers. Baked to perfection with the mozzarella melting just right. Yeah…that’s real tough to fall in love with.
Pizza is probably one thing I’ve loved longer than craft beer. Perhaps it’s because my parents didn’t let me drink craft beer when I was a kid (thanks Mom and Dad), but pizza was most definitely a fixture in our household. Unfortunately, growing up in a small town didn’t offer a lot of options outside the chain varieties, but pizza was still served, consumed, and enjoyed by the entire family on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
My move to Pittsburgh 12 years ago brought with it a new-found appreciation for many things. Night life. Live sports. Sushi. Better beer. And, of course, spins on pizza that knocked my socks off while packing pounds on.
My decade+ as a Pittsburgher has introduced me to many pizza joints across the city. But none of them have become closer to my heart than Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Bloomfield. Readers of Breaking Brews have undoubtedly noticed I’ve spent an ample amount of time talking up Caliente for all the great things owners Nick and Angie Bogacz do for craft beer. But if I haven’t spent enough time talking about the mouth-watering pizzas these guys create, I apologize. One of the best combos in the world is great pizza and great beer, and Caliente hits this dead-on every visit.
Caliente’s pizza has been recognized as the Best Pizza in Bloomfield in 2014, and has also been named 3rd best pizza in all of Pittsburgh in a competition featuring over 2,000 pizza places! That’s a hot circle of awesomeness if I’ve ever seen one. Their reputation has spread through the Steel City like a brush fire, leading to the opening of a second Caliente location in Hampton Township in October 2014.
Their pizza fame hit new levels on Friday, February 13th as pizza legend Tony Gemignani was in the house signing copies of his new book, The Pizza Bible. The place was packed to the rafters with pizza enthusiasts clamoring to get their books signed and pick Tony’s brain. The event also featured free beer from one of Pittsburgh’s fastest-rising craft breweries, The Brew Gentlemen. It was definitely an evening to make any pizza and beer lover smile.
Hanging around the craft beer enthusiasts of Pittsburgh, conversation naturally shifts towards beer, its ingredients, its taste, etc. etc. However, this event taught me that beer isn’t the only thing being “fussed over,” to use the parlance of our times. Call me a pizza novice, call me one that has taken pizza for granted, but I never realized the complexities that people found in a slice of pie. I was standing within earshot of Tony and listened to him field a variety of questions from sauce varieties, flour usage, proper dough tossing, cooking times, you name it.
Within an hour, I had gained a new appreciation for pizza…not just from listening to Tony dish out answers, but because of the pizzas the cooks at Caliente provided, all prepared using Tony’s techniques from his new book. It added a new spin to an already fantastic product. Regardless of celebrity influence, Caliente is doing a thousand things right with what’s coming out of the ovens.
When I finally got an opportunity to talk to Tony, I shifted his attention away from pizza and, instead, picked his brain about Bar Rescue, as Tony has appeared on this Spike TV show a number of times. Bar Rescue has become one of my favorite shows. Not so much for the drama that’s played out on-screen, but more because of the educational factors regarding the science of running a successful bar. Tony told me what it was like being part of some of those rescues, as well as some pretty good stories about the one and only Jon Taffer…ones that pretty much told me what you see on TV is what you get.
All in all, Friday’s event was great for anyone who loves pizza, as well as anyone who loves local craft beer. The combination of Tony’s presence, killer Caliente pizza, and Brew Gentlemen beer was enough to put yet another happening at Caliente Pizza & Draft House over the top.
Caliente continues to raise the bar with everything they do. Consistently, they’ve got unique, hard-to-get-your-hands-on beer on tap, combined with events that truly define them as a craft beer destination. With Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week 2015 just around the corner, you can guarantee Caliente will be the hot spot to check out throughout the entire 10-day festival, with killer events, world-class beer selections, and, of course, some of the best pizza in the city of Pittsburgh.