Tossing the dough at Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Monroeville. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

UPDATE: Starting May 1, you can get the nation’s No. 1 pizza at Caliente Pizza & Draft House. It will be available at all five locations.

The company’s Regional Chef Eric Von Hansen recently won Best Pizza in America at the 2019 World Pizza Championship’s Pizza Taglio Division in Parma, Italy. Named after his mom and grandmother, the Mee-Maw pie is made with five-day fermented dough topped by olive oil, five-year aged Parmesan and rapini. It’s cooked with peppered bacon, shallots, garlic, onion, crushed plum tomato, porchetta, shaved black truffle pecorino Romano, salt, paper and, yes, more Parmesan.

His overall score was 772 out of 900 and he was the only American competitor to take home any prize.

“Pizza, for me, is about community,” Von Hansen says. “It’s a challenge coming up with new recipes, but my inspiration comes from my hometown — the city of champions. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing I can showcase award-winning pizza around the globe made in the heart of Pittsburgh. It’s been an unbelievable journey and I am so honored.”

Representatives from Caliente Pizza & Draft House are heading to the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas and they’re betting on another win.

For three consecutive years, the team has racked up numerous Pizza World Championship titles, including first place honors for their nontraditional pies such as the duck meat-topped “Quack Attack” and the “Wagyu Beef Truffle Fromage.”

For the 2019 event, which runs March 4-7, they’re putting three new pies — a traditional, a nontraditional and a pan — up against competitors from all 50 states and 16 countries.

“It’s the Super Bowl of Pizza,” says Eric Von Hansen, Caliente‘s regional chef. “We’re focusing on the task at hand, which is to bring something back to Pittsburgh that no one else is doing.”

On Friday, local journalists were invited to sample some top-secret slices. (Editorial aside: They are all unique and delicious!)

Von Hansen, the former executive chef at Lucca Ristorante in Oakland, has a test kitchen in his own home where he works year-round concocting the recipes that have made Caliente Pittsburgh’s a premier pizzeria.

The company, which is run by North Hills natives Nick and Angie Bogacz, started in 2012 and now has restaurants in Bloomfield, Aspinwall, Mt. Lebanon, Hampton and Monroeville.

Located on Mosside Boulevard, Caliente’s Monroeville site opened on Feb. 22. In addition to award-winning pizzas, it boasts one of the best beer selections in the eastern suburbs. There are 20 rotating taps, half of which are dedicated to local brews.

The building itself is jaw-dropping, with original tin ceilings, tile flooring and an ornate marble bar and wooden back bar that dates back to the early 1900s. Like the other locations, the walls are painted black and adorned with various beer company signs.

Caliente Pizza & Draft House
The bar at Caliente’s in Monroeville. Photo by Kristy Locklin.
The bar at Caliente’s in Monroeville. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

“We’ve kind of made a name for ourselves by giving people great pizza and great beer in a cool atmosphere where you can hang out with family and friends,” Angie Bogacz says.

Not long after the International Pizza Expo, Nick Bogacz and Von Hansen will head to Parma, Italy with an all-star team of internationally known pizza chefs to compete in the 28th Annual Pizza World Championship.

Tony Gemignani, a 13-time World Pizza Champion, invited the duo to join his team.

“Nick and Eric are dedicated to the craft of pizza in every way, from their development of innovative recipes to their commitment to community service,” Gemignani says. “The World Pizza Champions are the best-of-the-best and that’s what these guys are.”

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.