Pizza lovers are high on the Hog
If you order a pizza from Hogback Pizza in New Castle, be prepared. They don’t cut their pizza normally.
“Well, it’s normal for us,” laughed Dustin Chapin, owner with wife, Diane, of Hogback Pizza.
Normal for the Chapins is Chicago style. That means a round pie is cut into squares, not slices. But if you just can’t eat square pizza, there’s a way out.
“If you really want your pie cut in slices, just order it that way,” Diane said. “No problem.”
Hogback Pizza is New Castle’s favorite pizza joint. No matter that it’s New Castle’s only pizza joint.
The Chapins have devotees who come all the way from Carbondale and Parachute just to sink their teeth into Hogback’s fresh handmade crusts piled high with cheese and a plethora of toppings, from banana peppers and spinach to artichoke hearts and, yes, even anchovies.
Pizza ovens purchase
Dustin and Diane are the quintessential high school sweethearts. After Dustin moved from north of Chicago to Basalt in third grade, the two grew up together in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I graduated in ’89, and Diane graduated in ’90,” Dustin said.
Both worked at a variety of restaurants, from Basalt’s Frying Pan Restaurant to Carbondale’s Pour House. Finally, they “needed to get out of here like everybody does,” said Dustin. They hopped back and forth between Boulder and Nashville, working their share of restaurants along the way.
In Nashville, a really good deal on two pizza ovens spawned Hogback Pizza.
“It was such a good deal, I couldn’t turn it down,” he said. “I bought them even though I had nowhere to put them.”
That all changed when Dustin told his sister Kim about the ovens. She lives in New Castle, and had just heard about a retail space opening up – the old Grizzly Liquors building on New Castle’s Main Street.
A family affair
It didn’t take long for Dustin and Diane to get back to Colorado and set up shop. It helped that the Chapins have a lot of family in the area who were ready to lend the couple a hand.
“We rented the place sight unseen,” said Dustin. “The landlords overnighted us a couple of Polaroids, and in a month, we’d moved back out here, with our pizza ovens of course.”
Dustin already had some memories of New Castle. His grandparents lived in town when he was a child, and he would come visit.
“I hated it,” he laughed. “There were tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street. It was boring then, especially to a kid.”
But age and experience added a new dimension to Dustin – and Diane. Now with a space in place to start their first restaurant, New Castle was far from boring.
“We got here Halloween 1998,” Diane said. “We had a lot of work to do.”
First up was to get the building ready. The two did all the remodeling work themselves, with the help of their brother-in-law, Rick Fout. Rick’s son now works at Hogback.
“Rick’s the best custom woodworker in the valley,” said Dustin.
The place transformed from a liquor store to mod pizza place. They painted the concrete floor funky colors. They made counters out of corrugated metal. They added big exposed beams around the windows and the walls.
Next, they needed to come up with a name.
“We didn’t know what we were going to call it when we first got here,” said Diane. “We wanted something Colorado-based, something that reflected the area, but we didn’t want to use `Burning Mountain’ because it had been used before. My mom came up with Hogback, after the Grand Hogback ridge that runs through town. We asked a friend of ours what he thought of the name, and he said, `That’s your name right there,’ so we went with it.”
Family members continued to help. Dustin’s uncle created the restaurant’s logo: a gnarly looking hog. It looks something like Babe the pig – if Babe ran with a rough crowd. The Hogback hog has hair on his back, hair on his chest, and rings through his nose and one of his ears.
“My uncle’s an animator for Disney. He used to draw Homer for `The Simpsons,'” Dustin laughed, “so he had to do our logo.”
Now it’s been four years, and Hogback Pizza is going strong.
“We do well,” Dustin said. “We have a lot of regulars. They know our names, and we know theirs.”
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and one or both of the Chapins are usually on site.
The lunch crowd is often construction workers ordering by the slice. Dinner is busy, with people from New Castle, Silt and Rifle calling in and picking up pies on their way home from work.
The Chapins also serve calzones, subs and salads. There’s also in-house dining, and beer and wine are served on Fridays and Saturdays.
So what’s the best selling pie?
“Triple Bypass,” said the two simultaneously of their pepperoni, onions, jalapenos, ham, garlic and extra cheese pizza.
“It probably should be the Twiggy, but it’s not,” smiled Dustin. The Twiggy pizza has black olives, green peppers, spinach, onions, mushrooms and artichoke hearts.
It helps that the Chapins live close by.
“We live behind and upstairs,” said Dustin pointing to the back of the restaurant. “It’s a blessing and a curse, but it is pretty convenient.”
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