With the Upcoming Launch of big Burrito Restaurant Group’s 20th Restaurant, Alta Via Pizzeria in Bakery Square, It’s Fuller Speed Ahead for Corporate Chef and President Bill Fuller
by Reese Randall
June 2, 2021
He is one of Pittsburgh’s most revered chefs and culinary celebrities. He generates a depth and range of meaningful dining experiences that has been able to withstand the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic. For Bill Fuller, corporate chef and President of big Burrito Restaurant Group (bBRG), COVID-19 may have slowed down the pace of his 19 restaurants (including Mad Mex with its 13 locations, Casbah, Kaya, Eleven, Soba, Umi and Alta Via Ristorante), but he won’t be stopped with his 20threstaurant concept where he’s taking a slice out of another niche of sought-after fare: Pizza.
Under Fuller’s direction, bBRG will be opening Alta Via Pizzeria (AVP), an extension of the Alta Via brand named for the renowned footpath through the Dolomites, as announced on their company website. Inspired by the fresh cuisine and active lifestyle of both California wine country and the lively mountain towns of the Italian Alps; AVP presents the group’s pizzeria take on modern Italian cooking in a casual and friendly environment.
“Opening and cooking at Alta Via has been so much fun and it’s just getting better,” says Fuller. “As we have developed the Alta Via focaccia recipe over the last few years, we have been making pizzas with the leftover dough. That experimentation and a relentless love of pizza has blossomed into AVP.”
AVP will feature two kinds of pizza along with salads, sandwiches — including an AVP burger.
“We’re so excited to bring this to life in such an amazing facility as Bakery Square,” says Fuller.
Opening AVP on the Bakery Square campus worked in tandem with bBRG’s efforts to follow the path of being eco-friendly, as the once abandoned Nabisco Bakery plant purchased by Walnut Capital in 2007 created a sustainable, mixed-use development space ideal for AVP to take residency.
One of the main ingredients to bBRG’s business goals has been to sustain the organization’s sustainability practices. Although the pandemic provided a slight challenge, this has not discouraged Fuller. One could easily determine Fuller sees the sustainability cup as half full.
Although over the years Fuller and his team have developed connections with Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance (a network of family farms in Southwestern Pennsylvania), many of the farmers Fuller worked with this past year are the company’s friends.
“It’s usually during the month of March that most farmers have their whole year planned out, however when the pandemic hit last spring at that time, some of the local farmers we worked with were forced to transition to a direct to consumer scenario,” says Fuller.
bBRG works with the local Paragon supplier and pushes for them to bring produce and products from local farmers.
“It’s better to use local product because it travels less distance and supports the local economy,” says Fuller.
Sustainability practices as usual became a really complicated piece all around from farming to packaging because of COVID-19.
“At Mad Mex, for example our efforts to use biodegradable containers has been the norm, but when everything moved to take-out and all the take-out manufacturers came under pressure, we had to move to what we could find — stabilizing our sustainability with another biodegradable supplier was our goal,” says Fuller. “We recycle and have switched to energy efficient lighting to reduce the waste of electrical use and bulbs.”
As Fuller and his team at bBRG prepare for the opening of AVP and for their other restaurants to go full swing again to pre-pandemic levels — or better (due to the repeal of the mask mandate for fully-vaccinated individuals and the upcoming elimination of social distancing requirements across the state of Pennsylvania), the excitement to share delicious food and spirits with their customers is the end goal.
“We are really excited to meet and greet many new people,” says Fuller. “We anticipate a post-pandemic return to normalcy.”
For more information about the fall opening of Alta Via Pizzeria, go to @avppgh; Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Ave., East Liberty, altaviapgh.com; or for more information about big Burrito Restaurant Group (bBRG) go to https://bbrg.site.