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Just a pizza shop — with big ambitions

me and pizza

This is more than Nick Bogacz had in mind. Even so, he’s happy with the results.

Mr. Bogacz, the owner of Caliente Pizza and Draft Houses in Bloomfield and Hampton, had made a good living working in and running pizza shops; he had recipes that he thought would work and he set out to find a pizza business — take out or delivery only — of his own.

He had been turned down several times before hitting on a promising location on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield. The catch? The purchase included a liquor license. That went well past the original business plan, but Mr. Bogacz said the numbers worked out … and he took the leap. He also made a fateful business decision — he was going to serve craft beer, as soon as he put in a little research time.

That work paid off. The original Caliente was about six months old when the second annual Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week rolled around, and I recall it kind of exploding into the city’s craft beer consciousness. That was thanks to some shrewd planning on the part of the owner, who made sure he jumped into the beer week efforts with both feet. Those smarts have continued with the opening of the Hampton location, which has been filled with busy suburbanites who wanted to stay caught up with the city’s craft beer scene.

And then there’s the step that goes well beyond what would normally be expected from a pizza shop would — Caliente is making beer. With the help of Matt Moninger — a former brewmaster at Church Brew Works and the currently lead bartender at the Hampton location — Caliente has done beer week collaborations with Church and with East End Brewing; they’ll co-release a collaboration with Draai Laag — a dark sour called The Plague — next weekend and there are plans to brew an IPA with Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing later this year.

I don’t have any reason to doubt Mr. Bogacz when he says he just wanted a pizza shop. But I’m pretty happy that he gave up on those plans three years ago.

Post-Gazette Coverage of Caliente Pizza and Draft House:

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