Calleo and the Philosophy of Gourmet Pizza
At Pi Pizza Truck, they pride themselves in doing food different.
Unusual? Yes. Strange? Sometimes. Delicious? Absolutely.
With toppings ranging from Spanish-style chorizo, caramelized onions and manchego cheese on The Spaniard pizza to arugula, Riesling and vanilla bean poached pears with Gorgonzola dolce and mozzarella on The Socialite pizza, Pi Pizza Truck is certainly a rising star in Houston’s growing food truck scene.
For Anthony Calleo, a 2003 philosophy and theology graduate, the road to realizing his childhood dream of opening a pizza joint has had many twists and turns. Calleo, a whippet-thin thirty-something who does not hesitate to speak his mind, has pursued three careers since graduating from the University of St. Thomas.
Today’s graduates will change careers five to seven times in their lifetime. To prepare for this ever-changing career path, the University of St. Thomas offers a liberal arts education to ensure their graduates have the freedom to pursue any career path they choose.
Calleo began his career in social work with SAFE House, a community center that he and another UST alumnus, Mark Valdez, started as a service project while Honors students. Then he got into commercial real estate and leased restaurants. Now, he is the proud owner of Pi Pizza Truck, a roving food truck serving specialty pizzas and assorted awesomeness, and Sandy Witch Sandwich Company, a late-night eatery housed in Grand Prize Bar, and is one step away from that pizza place he dreamed about.
Why pizza? For Calleo, the answer is simple.
“I love pizza,” Calleo said. “I started making pizza when I was 18. It is fun to make and the industry as a whole has a fun attitude.”
Calleo found his way to St. Thomas through a teacher at St. Thomas High School who suggested Calleo look into the philosophy and Honors Program at UST. With the guidance of several Honors professors, including Dr. Ted Rebard, Dr. Mary Catherine Sommers, Dr. Terry Hall and the late Dr. Janice Gordon-Kelter, Calleo has used his education as leverage to freely pursue the type of work that inspired him.
“I have wanted a restaurant since I was a kid,” Calleo said. “Somewhere along the line I let someone convince me that it was not worth my time or education. When I was 29, I decided it was bull and made a promise to myself that I would open a pizza place by the time I was 35. The truck was my first step in doing so.”
For Calleo, pursuing his passions and working for himself is true freedom. In a post-capitalist America where he says freedom is relegated to the marketplace and most of his contemporaries see their freedoms reduced to limited choices, Calleo is creating his own path. He is “swimming at sea alone.”
But that doesn’t mean he does everything alone. Calleo credits much of his success to fellow food truck chefs Justin Turner from Bernie’s Burger Bus and Matt Opaleski and Jason Hill from H-town Streats, with whom he shared a kitchen when he first started out.
“I learned a lot from them,” Calleo said. “And it was all very selflessly given.”
With Pi Pizza write-ups in Culture Map and 29-95, it looks like Calleo is heeding their advice.
Sommers, who is a professor of philosophy, recognized Calleo’s enthusiasm early on and said he was the type of student teachers never forget.
“Anthony showed a lot of promise,” Sommers said. “He had amazing gifts, and he learned how they came together through Honors. He has endless enthusiasm and inventiveness and always had something that was not only interesting, but also relevant, to say no matter what we were discussing in class.”
Calleo has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. With a brick and mortar pizza joint on the horizon and armed with a liberal arts education, his future is pregnant with possibility. Until then, Calleo will continue to serve late-night eats to the hungry citizens of Houston.