Tony is the guy that brought his pizza to Espresso a Mano. It was a caffeinated testing ground to see if Pittsburgh was ready for an evolution in the pizza species.
He’d deliver the pizzas around noon. Then, the pillowy soft pizza, that was perfect for bravely dipping into espresso or resting your weary head, would vanish. Look at that thing!
The patrons couldn’t resist it. Tony took it as a sign to open a pizza shop in East Liberty. And that’s how we get to Pizza Taglio.
Now this is a pizza place. It’s a long area, simple and open so Tony can greet every single person as he makes pizza. Tony is stationed in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by stacks of dough, ingredients within an arms reach and ovens to his back.
If there was a pizza purgatory where you were sentenced to make pizzas for eternity, I imagine it would looks like this. For Tony this is heaven. At least, I’m assuming Tony, who quit his life as a lawyer to make pizzas full-time, would consider this heaven.
This was my view all night. I took a seat nearest to Tony so I could keep a close eye on him. I wanted to study this guy who dared bring an evolution of pizza to Pittsburgh. And in return he yelled pizza facts at me all night.
I’m reading the menu when he shouts over the glass “I finally found a cheese for the margherita pizza that I like.” Two things here before we move on.
1. I wasn’t aware Tony was on this journey. Why not just use buffalo mozzarella from Italy like everyone else?
2. That is his ice breaker? He must kill at parties because who doesn’t love to talk about exotic cheeses.
Tony continued,“Yeah, you’ll never guess the country.”
“Colombia!! Can you believe it? They ship the buffaloes over there and raise them in Colombia. It’s incredible!”
Tony was incredibly excited. I think he actually couldn’t stop talking about this cheese. He was thrilled beyond belief and had to tell someone. I doubt I’m the first to hear about Tony’s secret Colombian-Buffalo Cheese.
But that’s the passion and attention to detail Tony brings to his craft. Every pizza, every topping, every piece of flour has a story. There’s only eight pizzas on the menu and each one is carefully constructed. You can pay for extras, but why would you? That’d be like paying an artist to draw over the hair on the Mona Lisa with a half-empty highlighter that happened to be sitting in the gallery.
I chose the Greenpointer. This pizza is inspired by a pizza place in Brooklyn and, I think, built for those that crazy artistry paired with comfort. This pizza is covered in honey and soppresota.
I ordered the Greenpointer and Tony shouted over the glass if I wanted it round or square - what a question!
I asked Tony what he thought and he paused, then said, “Round would be great.” But I must have subconsciously reacted, or Tony saw something on my face that only a lawyer would be trained to see.
He stammered, his hands flopping dough back and forth into a pie, “Well the square would be great, too. It would work with the sauce and the cheese. Either way, I guess you could do it either way.”
I went with round. Did it make a huge difference? Did he serve me an illegal pizza? I was puzzled, but incredibly delighted.
Halfway through my Greenpointer Tony brought out a square cauliflower pizza. Before the plate could touch the table, Tony started to confess to me. He confessed how the dough is going to rise longer. And how he didn’t get a chance to check the bubble structure. I told him I’d be more than happy to check the bubble structure and that the pizza looked amazing. Should I have told him I wasn’t wearing a pizza wire?
So here’s the cauliflower pizza.
Check out that bubble structure!
This cauliflower pizza was oddly decadent. There was nothing sweet on it, but it was creamy and savory and a blast to eat. Each bite unleashed a hint of smokiness, like it was cooked atop some hickory wood chips. It had an after taste of summer camp, like you were eating a creamy, slightly charred marshmallow that your summer crush roasted for you.
Delightful and comforting.
But here’s a kicker. On the table before me I had what most people would consider two pizzas. They have a lot in common (cheese, sauce, bread), yet these two beings could not taste anymore different. Side-by-side they seemed alien. Like one was the missing link from pizza history and the other a modern, nimble, evolution of pizza.
Bouncing between the two pizzas was like skipping back and forth between planets or traveling across time. They in no way had a single flavor in common yet they share similar DNA.
It’s simply pizza wizardry. That’s the only explanation.
I’m about to leave when he looks up and asks me if I’ll try his pizza carbonara. I’m meeting my fiancé up the street, I’m already incredibly late. “You have to try it,” he says. It sounds like Willie Wonka convincing Charlie to get inside his glass elevator.
Do I turn down the opportunity for a pizza with an egg cracked on it? Or do I…well no, there is no alternative. When Tony offers you pizza you always say yes. It’s basically a pizza commandment.
Here’s the end result of the pizza carbonara. It’s a white pizzas with a wiggly egg in the middle. It sits there like a king sitting on its throne, surrounded by its kingdom of cooked meats and cheese.
Tony cracked the egg on top of the pizza immediately after it came out of the oven. “The egg will be cooked enough in about 15 seconds.”
And by the time he brought it to my table it looked like your normal sunny-side up egg.
The pizza was breakfast. The kind of breakfast you make on a sleepy Saturday morning, complete with bacon and eggs.
At this point I was bursting with pizza.
Then Tony brought out a cannoli.
“So does this cannoli have a backstory too?” I asked.
Tony had retreated behind the glass and tossed some pizza, thinking. He said “Well, I’m Sicilian. I had to have something like that on my menu.”
Pizza Taglio is something special. Tony is a force to be reckoned with—he finds inspiration for pizza, ingredients, and recipes in the deepest darkest depths of the world. What he’s doing is turning experiences into pizza, like it’s a prized form of alchemy.
When you visit Pizza Taglio in East Liberty, you’ll walk away with a unique pizza memory. Be daring and try a pizza slightly outside your comfort zone. It could be the closest thing to knowing what another dimension taste like.
For Tony, his next adventure is taking him to the heart of Cuba. I’m not sure what he’ll find there, but I know it’ll be great. Could it be a specially seasoned pork? Or pizza wrapped up like cigars?
Hopefully we’ll find out soon.