Jason Goldstein of Piante Pizzeria on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast
This episode is another on my tour de Colorado, but not on a bike. I’m just not that hardcore.
Here in Breckenridge, I had a chance to catch up with an old friend Jason Goldstein, who recently moved to Breck. He may be following me, I don’t know.
Jason is the chef and owner, diabolical mind behind Piante Pizzeria, a vegan pizzeria that’s dishing out traditional Neapolitan pizza, except with cashew based cheese and some really creative and delicious vegan toppings.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now about pizza without cheese, I’m telling you you’re going to miss out. Check out their yelp reviews.
Of course, the journey is just as important as the destination. So we get into Jason’s really interesting journey from his previous career to going to culinary school and how his family deciding on relocating to Breckenridge – which includes a motorhome and visiting over 40 states.
And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find references we talk about in the show notes.
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jason Goldstein of Piante Pizzeria.
[02:35] The long journey to Breckenridge
[08:35] Why pizza?
[11:45] It’s all about the cheese! Creating a traditional (vegan) Neapolitan pizza.
[15:00] Building a little family with a different approach to resort town employees
[17:15] Splurging on ingredients
[19:00] Response from the vegan community
[23:00] The unexpected connections of opening a vegan pizzeria
Jason thanks for having me. Thanks for being on the show. Really appreciate it. You know we had spoken a little bit about this before but you were on the east coast of New York finishing culinary school. You had your little family growing family going and you were kind of thinking about what was next. I don’t know if you were specifically think in a pizza place in Breckenridge in particular but why don’t you bring us into how you ended up in Colorado.
So once I left my prior life and career in the hardwood lumber industry and my wife who’s like a traveling yoga teacher realized that we didn’t need to live in New York anymore. We asked ourselves where in the world or more specifically the United States because we’re not ready to leave the United States yet could we. And do we want to live.Read More
It’s a pretty daunting question. There’s 49 other states besides New York to live in. You know and we want to get out of the northeast so we bought a motor home and said let’s go and find out where we want to live. So we hit 42 states in 14 months with our family. Nice. Yeah. With your two kids and a dog loaded up the 42 of them and my wife who is leans more towards the beach culture and surfing and stuff like that.
I was like there’s no chance she’s going to want to move to Colorado. So. So we started our search in actually the northeast like New Hampshire and stuff like that and maybe buy a farm with the barn and you know raise some animals and just kind of live our life like this once you leave New York. You realize that most of the other states in the country not all but most are less expensive considerably than New York.
So your financial help offers a lot more options to leave New York. So that was one of the reasons why we did leave. Right. And you know the weather up there in New Hampshire in Maine was just too rough for us to even consider moving forward of that project. Sure. So then we cruised down you know the eastern seaboard down to Florida in some really cool places some good surf town is down there.
But you know my wife you know she wasn’t feeling it you know to move there. Like you know beautiful state. Lots of cool stuff but not there so then from Florida we hung a left and you know we weren’t trying to skip these other states there’s a lot of good things but you know it just seemed like a place that we could relocated we didn’t know anybody in these other states didn’t and they seem to not be as open minded as like Colorado or some you know these western states you know move into like Mississippi I don’t know anybody in Mississippi right.
How am I going. Like I don’t even know where to begin. If I was going to move down there. So you know so. So we got to Florida. We hung a left you know and went down the street across the southern border of Georgia Alabama Texas and we knew no offense to any of those places we knew those weren’t any states that we wanted to look into.
So you get to California and yet we love California and stuff but there’s some issues that don’t jive with our belief systems.
So we skip California and then you got Washington and Oregon which are absolutely beautiful States great and but everybody told us you know you’re not going to see the sun for eight months. It’s hard. It’s hard. So we’re like not going to do that one right away. We knew about Colorado all along. It wasn’t like it was like a surprise like we were saving that for more of the end of the trip to Lake you know. Right.
So let’s not just go straight there. Exactly. Exactly. In the country Let’s adventure Let’s see what else is out there. To people. And there’s a lot of other really cool places that we like. Madison Wisconsin is a really cool little town. You know they’re growing. They’re growing their produce like in the middle of the highway is like in the medians it’s like really like vultures thinking culture over there and you know when we left the earth got to Cleveland Ohio we could live here like you know.
But you know certainly it just wasn’t. It was still more of like the same type of light lifestyle. You know we really wanted to change our lifestyle. So in places like Montana and Idaho and you know I grew up in New Jersey, seventeen hundred people per square mile.
And then you get to a place like Montana where there’s seven and it was pretty nice. You feel it.
Yeah. You really feel you spread your wings a little bit. But still like so isolated you know for like you know our star type of lifestyle. So you know we came down to Colorado and you know we thought maybe Boulder you know a lots of friends of relocated to Boulder. Good friends. And it just was still like two hours from the mountains. It was a big deal for us and it was just a very busy fast paced little city you know.
So just we wanted to be more in the woods so Breckenridge really was the sweet spot. You know 90 minutes or 90 minutes to two hours to the international airport 90 minutes to downtown Denver and you know world class alpine skiing and all kinds of other things so. Sure. What I didn’t like as far as the business goes a million and a half people come through this town every year so I figured out a good shot you know compared to other ski towns for sure.
Absolutely. I mean that’s that’s part of the special thing that’s going on in this town in particular and it’s a handful of towns in Colorado have kind of achieved this real solid almost four year four season economy right. They’ve diversified and they have great people in town making sure that these million and a half tourists are coming in almost steadily. I mean obviously the ski season still dominates but but summer is just as big. It seems like. Yeah exactly.
You know the biking and the hiking and all the events I mean just before you know I talked to you as I was speaking with the people over the break create and you know all of the things that they’re doing as part of their charter with the city to keep the calendar full. And you look at the calendar for Breckenridge or something like every day.
It’s crazy. I can’t I never I never even anticipate any of this moving here. You know right.
You don’t know when you come here to just to travel just to go skiing for a week. You’re just that’s all you do. You show up at the mountain. You go to the mountain. Exactly. And so yes it’s totally different when you get to move into a place as a local like that and just start making friends and really and then opening a business.
You know how did that all pan out. Like you when you moved here I’m sure you had some you know you’d been developing some thoughts when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a motor home for 14 months. You had a lot of time to think I’m sure.
But you know in this time you know you had your wife who had been diving deep into the lifestyle and you had you know kind of already been there for a long time but just really letting your culinary education kind of percolate around you know how you wanted to make it fit your life. And you know your views on you know what healthy eating and healthy living is all about. And so there was the opportunity to allow you to kind of open Piante Pizzeria up and right here in Breckenridge.
Well we didn’t initially think that we wanted to open up a pizza place because you know I’m a pizza lover connoisseur coming from New York and actually turning vegetarian allowed me to eat pizza. You know being vegan there’s no pizza but vegetarian you can eat pizza and like you know running around with a young family and I’m doing work and doing stuff like pizza was always the constant comfort food.
I could go into a pizzeria by myself get a couple of slices sit down and not feel weird like most other restaurants it’s like you don’t usually go into them and sit by yourself because like when you sit in a restaurant by yourself I mean it’s all cool and all but it’s also a little you know it could be a little weird.
You know I don’t know but I’m fine with it now. But you know so it was just really great food for me and it kept me from going vegan for a year and a half. Literally that was the only thing that I would eat that was not vegan for radio. And we were vegan or house and stuff like that. So I thought I was with come out here and open up like a little coffee shop the bakery because I figured I could sell sugar anybody.
Like people don’t care if they see a cupcake they don’t care if it’s vegan or not. You know when they when they’re eating pizza everybody has an opinion about pizza. Sure. You know it’s one of those foods that has a history. It’s a communal food.
And I was just like man thank God this Japanese vegan woman named Miyoko out of California really perfected the art of making cheese out of nuts. OK. And she made this vegan cheese. It’s just so it coincided with when the vegan pizzeria was like coming into form. And when I discovered the shoes I was like wow I can make like real Neapolitan pizza with this cashew based cheese and people don’t even know the difference. Right
. And that really is. It really was the hang up and that’s something like you said is really recent. I mean even if you are not vegan or not even a vegetarian but you were just open to go into the restaurant sometimes and trying this food. The cheese would be a hangout like if you’ve got a veggie burger with the cheese on it. You’re like oh. So. So that’s a recent thing actually that allowed you to do this.
Yes. It’s very recent and it’s one of those things that it’s really exciting to be in on the ground floor like with these other companies and the fact that it’s blowing people’s minds when they come into the restaurant that they can’t believe it’s of being type of situation because we we really follow the laws of Italian Neapolitan to laws of making pizza. Crust and our sauce all that type is like really traditional Italian Neapolitan style pizza. Right. And then the only the only variation this cashew based she’s right you know and that’s interesting like you mentioned that it’s it’s not really just you you’re know being on.
At the beginning of a trend including like your suppliers and your vendors and things like that you’re kind of all on a journey together. Yeah totally. So that’s really that’s amazing. So you found a place in Breck that had the wood fired.
Well that’s the other story here. Move to Breckenridge and we moved in August and it’s probably like now late late September we’re just starting to settle into our house and stuff and I was just like man like now what.
You know I mean I do want to you know get on the mountain and go snowboarding every day. But this is October and you know I’m 40 43 year old guy. What am I going to do with it like that. I’m not here to snowboard. You know to do something you know. So I went on my phone. I was like restaurants for sale in Breckenridge. And I didn’t have a huge budget on financing myself so this little pizza place was for sale.
And I went and checked it out and I was like I could afford this and it was more like we didn’t have a business plan we didn’t like you know it was just my wife and I we really didn’t know many people up here or the culture or anything and we went over there and really let’s just see if we could do it right.
That was all as I can we do it. Will people respond to this if we could do it here in a place where there’s not a vegan restaurant for 50 miles and then I feel like we could really do it in a lot of other places too. So it was more like you know just to see you. We’ve never done this before. Sure. So can we do it in like you know it wasn’t a huge risk if it failed.
You know it wasn’t going to like bury or family or anything like this. It’s been quite a learning experience from just like all the stuff still regrettably in the restaurant to getting your license to getting logo’s to getting banking accounts. I mean it was an arduous process you know. So anybody that wants started a new business just be ready that there’s a lot of unexpected things that are going to come your way like insurance and taxes and stuff like that like always be prepared for those type of things you know and those are the things that get people right.
Like I have this idea. Having the idea is one thing like kind of executing on the idea and especially a lot of times when you’re dealing with the kind of creative type types of people that’s those are the things that are really hard for them and that are the stumbling blocks. That’s the reality of owning a business right there in your city taxes on time and all that kind of good stuff.
Well I tell people all the time that like you know if I if I just had to rely on the culinary school part of my education in life then the place I would have been closed in a month.
You know it was a twenty seven years of business in New York in doing that. That’s that’s what kept me going. Right. You know. Yeah. The culinary school was great but you know I mean that gets you the good recipes and understanding how to run a kitchen. Right. But that’s that’s one part of it. Sure. You know well and getting people is the other huge part. Oh yeah. And that’s terribly warn me about up to.
And not warm like warmed in the sense of what you’re dealing with just of a population that they’re coming into seasonal work and things like that. And so they just having that the time I think there’s a culture in the restaurant industry and in the in the world especially when it comes to tourist towns that you’re going to get late. You know not great workers and people that are like focused on other things and you know they’re just doing it to like pay their rent and get their lift pass.
And I haven’t had that experience really. I mean the workers that we have are they seem to be very enthusiastic about working in the restaurant and I feel like we’re we’re building like a little family over there. Tell you the truth with these people and I really want to put a lot of effort into this interview and into the world is that lake. But we put our time and effort into our staff and not worry about you know quarterly profits and stuff because at the end of the day the staff will get you there.
It may not happen in two months. I’m in this for 20 years and I don’t know if like I don’t care what happens you know at the end of this quarter. Right. You know I’m worried about is going to happen 10 years from now. Sure. And the better I could train my employees and the more loyal I am to them and they are to me the faster they will get the better they will be with my customers. And overall everybody wins right. You know I’m not too late to be your bottom line profits at the end of the month you know.
Sure. And you know there’s a lot of you have a chance to go and visit your business over the course of kind of this whole weekend that I’ve been staying here you know hanging out in the back of the kitchen you are really seeing that just the people there do seem to have attracted an amazing crew and you’ve kind of mentioned that the words kind of get now that it’s a nice place to work.
You know it’s a good atmosphere. And that’s absolutely rubs off when you walk in that place you feel it and then you know the other thing you mentioned is you know it’s not totally focused on the bottom line. A lot of that also spills over like into your ingredients and we spoke a lot about a lot about that. You know the tomatoes are something like the cost between the cheapest ones and the best organic ingredients usually isn’t really all that great.
Now it may become a when you add it all up with all of the different ingredients it is an investment in those things but that that’s just important to you it’s not you know you’re not getting the cheapest ingredients you’re probably getting the most expensive ones.
But it totally shines in the quality of the product at the end and that’s something that comes back to you know your kind of culinary education and things like that to restaurants. You had a chance to get involved with is just like I’m not a great chef. You know you don’t have to be a great chef if you have the best ingredients you’re your products. Probably going to be pretty awesome.
That’s usually what they say right. You know and like I see a lot of restaurants out there they spend a lot of money on advertising and you know commercials and all kinds of things that discounting their food and happy hour specials. This is like the restaurant world this is like the business of running a restaurant. And like we’re not doing any of that stuff we’re actually trying to change that model. It’s like not to pay my employees are going to pay for my ingredients.
You’re not going to see my advertisement on the front page of the newspaper because I’d rather put my money into my ingredients to my employees than into advertising and discounting the artists. It just makes more sense to me. I mean they might be 99 percent of restauranteurs out there telling me that I’m out of my mind and that’s how you do it but that’s what I’m trying to do and it seems to be working so far so right. You know and the response has been great. It’s just been really good so far knock on wood.
Yeah. I mean it seems like not only is your staff becoming a kind of a little bit of a family over there but you’re developing kind of the regulars and the reputation and by you know you haven’t even hit your first comment this season yet. So those are really you know that that’s going to be really interesting to see how that goes. But you started off by building you know a reputation kind of in Breckenridge and also with all of us front Rangers who come to Breckenridge and it’s really shining through and all here as a community man.
The one interesting thing about vegans now I have to gluten free people to that list because we at Piante Pizzeria do make a you know in-house gluten free crust that people were like you know going crazy over they can’t even almost tell the difference for my regular crust so that’s doing really well but these people will travel for this type of food it’s like you know I tell people story all the time and I’ll get a group of six that came in from somewhere in the Midwest anywhere in the world and they all know about our restaurant they just stumbled in and they’re like oh you guys have like real cheese and I say that with quotes because the cheeses you know that’s another story about it or pepperoni.
You know we’re going to we’re all looking for you know what I find you know as Peter you know regular standard pizza place across the street once and I’m over there and the next group comes in of four and they came from Fort Collins which is like two and a half hours away and they came just to come.
They love Breckenridge but they’re coming to try our vegan pizza and they tell us and we have so much positive feedback from people. I think that also helps with my staff because they hear it like because I’m not there all the time. You know they’re the ones that want to go and talk to the chef talk to the owner or to tell people like how great when you’re serving people food that they never had in their 40 50 60 years old and this is the first time they ever had this in their life. That’s pretty it’s a pretty rewarding experience for whoever is involved with that process you know. Right
Yes. Because like you said it’s a whole experience from the minute they walk in the door. It like with the music you’ve chosen for it and I mean people come in and cry.
I mean I’ve had people literally like I haven’t had pizza in nine years.
Right and they’re crying because they can’t believe what they’ve had. They can have this experience again in their life you know. Right
Because they made this lifestyle decision and it involved cutting out certain things that they love that they love. Yeah sure. That’s amazing man.
Well it’s just seems like you’ve really touched on something and obviously you know trends in food are just changing and you know people even like me so I’m not a vegan. But I was just thinking to myself when I was making myself a cup of tea in your kitchen this morning that you know our pantries first of all I had to dig.
You know when you are at somebody else’s house I had to do all your covers so sorry about that. But you know your pantry doesn’t really look that much different than now. You know there’s a lot of the same stuff going on. And then I you know I might put it like some chicken on my salad or something like that. And then and then at the pizza place like same thing like pizza and a salad is probably one of my favorite meals.
Man. So of course you like I mean we’ve talked about the pizza we haven’t talked about the other stuff that’s on your menu but your salads are just they’re amazing. And then you know you have the pizza experience and you know I don’t need if the food is good and the crust is good and you know you’re getting these crazy toppings on there and it’s just clicking.
All of the kind of mental boxes of what you expect when you sit down for that meal than that then you’re satisfied when you came out you don’t really worried about. Well was that dairy. Right. It’s like you’re your mouth’s happy your brain’s synapses are happy. lay down your belly fat in your belly.
And then and then you walk out and you don’t feel like all heavy which is you know pretty like amazing to have that experience after a pizza dinner.
And I’ve got to say to like I want to add like I had a vision in my head of like my customer base when I open up I’m like that’s probably going to be you know millennials and more females than males just from my biased about you know veganism. Like from my chefs school class was two guys and 10 girls so like just going by those numbers I’m like figure in that it’s going to be more heavy on the female side.
But when I see guys that come in that look like bikers from Texas and I’m standing there and I’m like oh my god this guy is going to like have a fit when he finds out what I’m trying to sell him over here. And the next thing I know he’s hugging me because he’s been vegan for a year and a half and lost 30 pounds because his doctor told him to get off the animal proteins and he’s like so happy and hunted our restaurant down.
I’m like wow man I can’t believe like you know 75 year old people from Oklahoma come into my restaurant you know and you know you know sorry about my bias you know but like I’m like wow you are a vegan right. Yeah. Proud of it. And I’m like man I never would have expected you know.
Well that’s what happens when you take a chance right. And you know I mean you travel the country you say you had a chance to see people from all these different places and kind of experienced all that our country has to offer. And now they’re kind of you know you settled where fits your lifestyle but those people you know we’re we’re a country of road trippers man we love it.
But he knows that. And you know whether it’s in your wagon or on your motorcycle or in your RV man we’re on the road you know.
So even bicycles more on bicycles there. And because you rode your bike from where. It’s unbelievable.
So you know when you open the doors to a foodie experience like you get to have that special kind of interaction.
Oh that’s the other thing too is that like from traveling the country we realize that you know we could drive from Maine to Florida of Florida to the southern tip of California and from California up into the southern tip of Washington and find like vegging plant based food. Like pretty much without too much of an issue. But if I want to drive from the East Coast to Colorado and drive through the heartland good luck right.
You know and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to bring it here to Colorado because even Denver being a major metropolitan city I think only has one or two like plant based restaurants where it’s like there’s more plant based restaurants in Omaha than there are in Denver. And for me I like to be in Colorado with such a healthy focused athletic focus. I mean some accounting here I think is rated as one of the wealthiest counties in the country. And I it’s like how do you guys not have a good vegan restaurant or more healthy options out there.
You know I mean I’m sure I can find a great burger in about 25 different restaurants over here but we’re really the only ones that are purely drive purely for this type of food right now appear so. Right.
And you’ve hit it with like again like with an accessible kind of comfort as opposed to like you know some fancier plates or other stuff like that. It really breaks down a barrier.
Yeah well that’s the other thing that like you know just the plant based food. You know moving forward now in this country is just been exploding so the options now. I mean even in the last year I just found out that there’s like vegan cool whip too. I mean you know it’s like it’s not even hard anymore. Like where like in the past it was like you know people came into a vegan vegetarian restaurant and they were just expecting bland food that you know not really a lot of personality and you know I mean that’s what it was.
It was part of because the ingredients just weren’t there and they thought the recipes and you know what people are doing now like with cauliflower like you know I mean it’s just you know I don’t feel like I missed really anything nowadays being vegan right now where you know maybe five years ago it was much more challenging where you know you have these ingredients like tofu and temping or like I don’t even know what do I do with this.
You know but you know it’s evolving and it seems like it’s really moved because it’s good for us it’s good for the planet and it’s good for the animals. You know right. Mean
that’s you know those are all messages that resonate especially in our environment. Like you said we’re in an active healthy place. So. Well you know it’s man. Thanks for taking the time to sit down. I really wish you all the best with your new place. It seems like it’s headed in the right direction. But man the ski season is going to be it’s going to be wild is when night the crowds really start showing up around here because you’ve had a chance just to kind of you know figure figure things out.
Hopefully we’ll see what happens. Right. It’s only nine nine tables right now so that they are to make some more carve out some more space for and make a reservation. Hey good luck to you with the podcast man that’s really awesome that you’re doing this. I know the stories are fun and you know it’s really fun to connect with people so I think Colorado is a great it’s a really great you have a lot of great stories here. Man there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in this state for sure. That’s what I’m finding is that it’s limitless.
Awesome. Well thanks again. Best of luck and we’ll have you again soon man. Good. Great. Come on a pizza bye.
Everyone here thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jason. As always you can find any links to related content in the show notes to this podcast episode. If you enjoyed this episode please subscribe to this podcast on Colorado Podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps out if you prefer to get our advice via email or use a podcast service. Other than Apple podcasts such as stitchery Android you can learn more at Colorado.FM/subscribe.
Thanks again. Hope you enjoyed this episode and we will talk to you soon.