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Hotz Times in Ol' Tremont 

A pizzeria joins the venerable neighborhood Café.

Those who like their grub dished up with heaping helpings of local lore are sure to dig Big Guys Pizza, the newest casual-eats option in historic Tremont.

The pizzeria, scheduled to open today at 2539 West Tenth Street (216-436-8888), is owned and operated by Mike Genco and John Hotz, and occupies the ground floor of one of the neighborhood's oldest buildings, dating back to horse-and-buggy days. Recent renovations have restored it to its old-fashioned charm, with beaded-board paneling, oak trim, and authentic, gas-fired brick pizza ovens. Handsome contemporary counterpoint is provided by way of stainless steel, brightly colored paint, and a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Hotz's entrepreneurial roots run deep into Tremont's good earth. His mother operated a beauty shop in his new pizzeria space for more than 30 years, and his grandfather founded next-door's Hotz Café way back in 1919. In fact, John Hotz became the third generation of his family to run the little neighborhood bar, when he took it over in 1997. And while the tavern's venerable exterior may be entirely unprepossessing, its interior -- complete with the original mahogany bar, vintage gas lamps, and a 1926 shuffleboard machine -- is homey, warm, and ruthlessly clean.

The tavern has also seen its share of famous faces during its 85 years of operations, including those belonging to FDR, Rocky Colavito, Babe Ruth, and the cast of the 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which was filmed in the area. Unfortunately, all the cameras and commotion that followed the stars into the bar apparently didn't sit well with the elder Hotz; his son still sounds awestruck as he admits, "My dad threw out Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep!"

It's carryout-only at Big Guys, but patrons are welcome to take their pizzas -- as well as ribs, chicken, sandwiches, or potato pancakes -- next door and chow down at the bar. Among the notable sandwich options, the PLT, with fried pepperoni, lettuce, and tomato, sounds especially big-guyish. And among the 'zas, there's an oversized 18-incher, with giant slices just made for folding NYC-style, as well as the belly-busting Pierogi Pizza, its crust layered with butter, onions, potato, and cheese, topped with sauerkraut, and finished with kielbasa! Dough and sauces are homemade, topping ingredients are prepped daily, and ready-to-bake pies are available for those who want the taste of freshly baked pizza in the comfort of their own kitchen.

Big Guys Pizza will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

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