Caliente Pizza: Champions Again

Anton Zupancic, general manager of Mt. Lebanon’s Caliente Pizza and Draft House, competes in the Best Cheese Slice Competition at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

Caliente Pizza and Draft House has something to brag about. The Pittsburgh-based pizza chain with seven locations, including 329 Castle Shannon Boulevard, won its fifth World Championship at the 40th International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas last week.

Matt Hickey, Caliente’s commissary general manager, got top honors in the category of  Largest Dough Stretch and was also awarded a silver medal in Pizza Acrobatics and finished third in the Traditional Ooni Division for portable outdoor pizza ovens.

Perry Bogacz, roaming manager, won a silver medal in the Pizza Triathlon—folding a 12‐inch pizza box, tossing out a 22‐ounce dough ball to cover a 16‐inch pizza screen and then tossing out another 22‐ounce dough ball to cover a 24-inch screen as fast as possible—and finished third in the Northeast Traditional Pizza Category.

Eric Von Hansen, director of operations, finished third in the Northeast Non-Traditional Pizza Category.

Anton Zupancic, general manager in Mt. Lebanon, competed in several categories, including the Best Cheese Slice Competition and the Pizza Triathlon. “It was such a cool experience,” he said.  It was his first time competing in the International Pizza Expo. He’s been GM at the Mt. Lebanon location for more than two years and has worked at the restaurant for over five years.

The dough, the sauce and the cheese Zupancic uses in his pizzas made the trip from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas in a cooler. “I was really nervous, but I just did what I do here; make pizza,” said Zupancic.

The International Pizza Expo is the largest pizza trade show in the world, with thousands of pizzeria professionals in attendance each year.

Zupancic quickly learned Caliente’s popularity isn’t just limited to Pittsburgh. Competitors from all over were familiar with Caliente’s champion track record. “I almost felt kind of famous,” Zupanic pointed out.