An insatiable desire to find the best pizza in the North East led former joiner Calvin Kitchin to start his own New York style pizza parlour, in the middle of Heaton.
Now approaching two years of trading, the 29-year-old is looking to expand beyond his Chillingham Road shop which has even convinced native New Yorkers of its authenticity.
After spending nearly three years working on the recipe for his pizza, the self proclaimed “foodie” hit upon the perfect pie using a homemade marble slab arrangement on his home BBQ, finished off in his oven.
“I’d been eating a lot of pizza, and found that a lot of Italian restaurants in the area simply weren’t that good at it. Online research led me to the Coney Island pizzeria’s in New York and the type of places started by neapolitan immigrants. I just couldn’t believe that we didn’t have this type of product in the UK,” said Mr Kitchin.
“I hit upon this recipe and all of a sudden friends and family were coming by the house to buy these pizzas. I was doing them all the time, using boxes from a local takeaway to supply them in. Pretty quickly I realised I needed a shop because people loved the product so much.”
Opening up under the ‘Cal’s Own’ name on Heaton’s Chillingham Road, Mr Kitchen quickly established himself amidst a landscape of big international chains, serving heavily advertised products at top prices.
Although he admits the margins are fine, his commitment to the authentic New York pizza has brought increasingly discerning consumers through the doors to sample a product which bears little resemblance to his big name competitors.
Mr Kitchin added: “I have this quest for pizza perfection, which has fed into everything we do at the shop. For instance, my tomatoes are San Marzano D.O.P (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), the best you can get, and I use a water filtration system in the dough-making process.
“We’ve had quite a few Americans, and New Yorkers, visit the shop - and they’ve been blown away by it. They will tell you that pizza lovers in New York don’t need to go to the likes of Papa Johns or Dominoes, because the independent, street corner pizza shop is so good. That’s what I’d like to introduce here.”
Mr Kitchin, who attributes much of his trade to exposure through review site Trip Advisor, says he now has ambitions to open up a second shop.
He added: “Trip Advisor reviews were really good at getting us going in the early days, because people who are really into pizza would seek us out. Although we have done well in our current location, I’m keen to build up a lunchtime trade - and ideally we’d need to be in the centre of town or Jesmond to do that.
“When I started up I didn’t have the money to be in those places, so Heaton was a good test-bed where I could prove the business worked, in an affordable space.”