On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," chef Anthony Calleo joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss a range of topics, starting with how he went from earning a masters degree in social work at the University of St. Thomas to a move into the restaurant business. After working at a number of pizza restaurants such as Pink's Pizza and Late Nite Pie, Calleo made a name for himself when he started Pi Pizza Truck.
After partnering with Cherry Pie Hospitality to open a brick and mortar version of Pi, Calleo left the restaurant in January. Currently, he's working with Presidio chef Adam Dorris and his business partner Taylor Lee to overhaul the food served at Ladybird's, Lee's bar near Washington Avenue. Calleo, who is self-taught, explains how working with a chef as experienced as Dorris has been beneficial to the way he crafts dishes, and shares that Ladybird's customers have responded well to the changes. Dorris' focus on utilizing local ingredients has also shaped the way Calleo thinks about the kind of products he wants to use going forward.
More importantly, Calleo is working with Dorris, Lee, and Ladybirds beverage director Michael Riojas on a new restaurant that will open in Montrose later this year. They've leased the former Brooklyn Athletic Club space for the still-unnamed project, which will serve a tidy menu of pizzas and small plates. How will it be different from Pi? Calleo explains:
"I'm real excited about it. There's going to be a new dough recipe, probably two kinds of dough. It'll be the food that I've really wanted to serve people for the last year-and-a-half but haven't been able to," Calleo says. "There's not going to be any ranch. There's not going to be any mac and cheese. But it'll be real delicious. It won't be boring."
Later he adds, "What we're going to do is the same kind of stuff I've always cooked . . . It's still fun, it's accessible, it's really good, but it's more ingredient-driven. It has more finesse to it: a little more aikido, a little less street brawling."
Calleo will provide some sneak peeks at his plans via a series of pop-up events at Presidio that's he calling Majick Mondays. The first will be Monday, July 23. In order to serve pizza, Calleo is bringing his truck out of retirement and will be serving from it.
Prior to Calleo joining the show, Felice Sloan from local lifestyle blog Urban Swank joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include some of the restaurants they're looking forward to visiting during Houston Restaurant Weeks, Camerata's expansion to Oak Forest, and the remodeling taking place at Midtown staple Harry's Restaurant & Bar — don't miss Sandler's explanation for why he hasn't been to Harry's in several years.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler discuss their meals at two Houston restaurants: Padna's Cajun Eatery in Montrose and Phat Kitchen, the recently opened Malaysian restaurant that's among the first establishments to open at the massive new Asian Town development in Katy.