Chorney-Booth: Cold Beer and Pizza serves up pies and brews, exactly as advertised

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We’ve all seen restaurants with names having nothing to do with the type of food served. Calgarians contemplating local favourites like Model Milk, Ten Foot Henry, or Donna Mac, for example, have to do some legwork to get a handle on those places’ cuisine. A new restaurant in the Beltline eliminates this issue with a name that could truly not be more literal.

It’s called Cold Beer and Pizza. That’s it. That’s the name.

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Cold Beer and Pizza serves exactly what you’d think — beer and pizza — but it goes beyond the typical hole-in-the-wall bar slinging greasy slices and bottles of Bud. The room, designed by Way of Normal (Class Clown, Buon Giorno) does telegraph a bit of a dive bar spirit, but it’s a curated look, with a checkered tile floor, intentionally worn-in banquettes and retro signage, all amplified by a well-chosen punk rock playlist. The designers’ pièce de résistance is a curtained-off, free photo booth that patrons must walk through to access the bathrooms, resulting in many laughs and good-natured photo bombs. The fun spills out onto an expansive wrap-around patio with lively table, booth and counter seating.

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Operations manager Karla Medkova and owner/GM Tom Vitolianos at Cold Beer and Pizza on 17th Avenue S.W. in Calgary. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Cold Beer and Pizza looks cool and the actual pizza and beer lives up to the atmosphere. Owner-operator Tom Vitolianos took the assignment of adhering to the business’s name seriously. The first part — the beer — was easy. Vitolianos and his team filled the taps at the front entrance counter (the back counter is where pizza is ordered and served, keeping things simple) with a selection of craft beer from local breweries, as well as a couple of house brews. There are canned cocktails from other local businesses and zero-proof drinks for non-beer drinkers. Easy-peasy.

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“We wanted to bring the breweries here to 17th Avenue,” Vitolianos says. “We’re bridging a gap between where the breweries are with our location, but at the same time there’s no beer snobbery or pretentiousness about this place.”

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Fresh pizza is prepared at Cold Beer and Pizza. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Cold Beer and Pizza also fills a gap in terms of rectangular Roman-style pizza, a relative rarity in Calgary. This style of pie, also known as pizza al taglio — not to be confused with the four-cornered Detroit style, which is much thicker and heavier with toppings — has become incredibly popular across North America, thanks to Roman-style pizzerias popping up in hipster hot spots like New York and Montreal, as well as an increase in tourism to Italy and the influence of famed Roman pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci. In true Roman style, Cold Beer and Pizza sells pizza by the half metre ($22 for a basic basil ’n’ tomato sauce and up to $52 for a pie with a creamy globe of burrata on every slice), the metre (a little less than double in price) or a mere $6 for a slice from a rotating selection displayed behind the counter.

Despite Cold Beer and Pizza’s casual appearance, Vitolianos is not fooling around with this pizza. The focaccia crust is thick and crisp, but also shockingly light. Toppings fall largely into the traditional category, with things like mortadella, pistachio and thinly sliced potato to thrill hardcore pizza al taglio fans. There’s also a selection of sandwiches available to add some variety.

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And that’s it. Cold beer. Pizza. Patio. On a hot summer day, you can’t ask for much more.

Cold Beer and Pizza is located at #102, 1019 17th Ave. S.W. and can be reached through coldbeerpizza.com. The restaurant is open daily for lunch, dinner, and late-night eats.

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Cold Beer and Pizza has a large outdoor patio for warm summer nights on 17th Avenue S.W. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia
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Cold Beer and Pizza serve up some of the city’s best local brews. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia
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Cold Beer and Pizza on 17th Avenue S.W. is a casual hangout with a bit of a curated dive-bar atmosphere. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

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In other restaurant news, over in Britannia, Primary Colours, the collaboration between Monogram Coffee and chef Matthias Fong that opened just last year, has re-jigged its look and offerings. While Primary Colours has been successful (it did make my list of Best New Restaurants for 2023), the concept might have been a bit confusing to some: it was part café (even though Monogram had another coffee shop next door) and focused primarily on brunch during the day while offering higher-end dinner service in the evening. Restaurants tend to feel half-baked when they’re trying to be everything to everyone, so the Primary Colours team shut down for a few days earlier this month to re-calibrate and come out stronger.

The front coffee counter has been torn out and replaced with a spiffy bar and some darker accent colours were added to jazz up the dining room. Food-wise, weekday breakfast has been scrapped, making way for a new lunch menu that better jives with the dinner offerings (brunch is now relegated to weekends only). Some Primary Colours favourites, such as Fong’s ginger beets remain, but otherwise, there’s a completely overhauled menu, with standouts like a walnut mousse vegetarian “foie gras” ($17), mushroom cannelloni with hazelnuts and brown butter ($24), fire-roasted dry-aged duck ($45) and a magnificent seafood tower for two with oysters and pearls, side-stripe shrimp cocktail, scallop ceviche, and tuna crudo ($49).

Primary Colours is located at 802 49th Ave. S.W. and can be reached at 403-764-2607 or through primarycoloursyyc.com.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @elizabooth or sign up for her newsletter at hungrycalgary.substack.com.

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