- Nancy Flores American-Statesman Staff
When Carlos Tremont helped launch a franchise of the Spanish pizza chain 100 Pizzitas (or Cien Pizzitas) in July, he infused Austin with a taste of Spain while embarking on a new personal journey.
The East Austin eatery, situated in a cozy cottage with a hilltop view of downtown, brings a new twist to the Austin pizza scene. It offers diners 100 personal-size pizza options with more than 60 natural ingredients and over half a dozen cheeses, as well as pasta and salads. It’s the restaurant’s first location outside of Spain, something that Tremont hopes will change soon as he and co-owner Antonio Gonzalez begin to work with other franchise owners interested in building a culinary bridge between the U.S. and Spain.
Spain’s economy has been hit hard in recent years. When Tremont and Gonzalez approached the Spain-based owner of Cien Pizzitas about their desire to launch the restaurant chain in North America, the company saw an opportunity to expand beyond its borders.
Uniquely Spanish flavors, such as salmorejo (a tomato and bread purée), set the eatery apart, although the menu has also been adjusted slightly to include popular regional ingredients such as brisket. One of the restaurant’s best sellers so far has been pizza #33, which features brisket, goat cheese, caramelized onions and a Pedro Ximénez sauce, a sweet sherry-based sauce.
The house specialty, pizza #46, includes ingredients like jamón serrano, foie gras mousse, brie cheese and chanterelle mushrooms. The 6 1/2-inch pizzas make sharing tapas-style possible, and Tremont says the restaurant hopes to refresh the menu with new options about every six months.
A little over a year ago, Tremont, 37, and his family moved to Austin from Venezuela, where the political situation had grown so tense that Tremont needed to start a new life away from everything he knew. His political activism in Venezuela had sparked death threats and kidnapping attempts against him, he said, and now he’s seeking political asylum and starting to shape a more hopeful future in Austin.
“I fell in love with the city,” Tremont says in Spanish. “The people here are incredible, friendly, and now we’re writing a new chapter in our story.”
Back in Venezuela, Tremont helped run his family’s bakery. Although he’s not a chef, he’s passionate about cooking and thrives on the creativity that happens in the kitchen. He hopes to resume the culinary school training he started in Venezuela so that he can one day fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant that’s his own original concept.
Meanwhile, the franchise owners hope that eventually there’ll be more Austin locations of 100 Pizzitas, but until then Tremont says he’s focusing on pouring his heart into the East Austin pizzeria that he hopes the community embraces just as they’ve embraced him.
“When I walk into a kitchen, I feel like I leave this world,” he says. “That’s my heaven.″