Meet the TasteMakers: “It’s ok to run out of food and take days off and close early! It’s ok to close for a week! But always maintain the vision you want”

With Chef Fiore Moletz, Founder of Burgh’ers Brewing and Della Terra Italian Bistro

Carly Martinetti
Mar 2 · 9 min read

I’m still learning this but I think I’m getting it. You must take time for yourself and the people you love. You must moderate everything. It’s ok to run out of food and take days off and close early, you must! It’s ok to close for a week! But always maintain the vision you want for your restaurant and never look back. Talking to other restaurateurs, I believe that we really go above and beyond for our teams, and I think that’s why we have been doing so well. Please treat your employees well.


Thinking that he was missing out as he would listen to people rave about the food at the very places he was working at, his exposure to food was only through the meals cooked at home. Those meals were all made with ingredients from local farms and friends’ gardens. When he finally did get the chance to partake in dining at the popular dining establishments, he realized that they didn’t measure up to the fresh and local dishes he had been eating his whole life. This was a turning point.

Fiore worked his way up through the restaurant business, eventually landing at chef Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant “Lidia’s” in Pittsburgh under Chef Craig Richards. It was there that he used his knowledge of fresh and local ingredients combined with basic techniques that were learned at previous jobs. His journey took him to different locations at Bastianich’s restaurant group including Kansas City, Italy, and New York — learning everything that he could along the way.

In 2005 he returned to Pittsburgh and started at Il Pizzaiolo helping with their fresh pasta production and learning from the chefs & Pizzaiolos from Naples.

Burgh’ers first location opened in 2010, and it is here that Fiore is able to establish his own style of cooking in the most sustainable way he can — and always using fresh local ingredients!


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

I now focus mostly on Italian food. My first restaurant was a chef driven burger joint. But my dream and passion has always been to open an Italian spot. At the time of my first restaurant, the Pittsburgh market was saturated with “Italian” restaurants. Burgers are my second love. While traveling and working in different restaurants around the country, I learned that my home town was missing out big time on gourmet burger joints. Burgh’ers opened July 2010 as the greater Pittsburgh area’s first gourmet burger joint and quickly became a hit. A few years later, we opened Della Terra, our Italian restaurant.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Four years ago we were told about a competition called the Blended Burger Project hosted by the James Beard Foundation and the Mushroom Council. It was focused around sustainability which fit perfectly into what we have been doing since we opened. Contenders all around the country made their blended burger with 25% mushrooms incorporated into the beef, posted a picture on Instagram and asked customers to vote for the one they liked best. This contest ran for three months, however we didn’t hear about it until the last three weeks. My kitchen staff created a burger to enter in the competition. It looked beautiful but tasted even better. We posted on Facebook and Instagram that we had entered the contest. Four weeks later we were contacted by the James Beard house that we had been chosen along with four others to cook our winning burgers in the James beard house! We have won this competition twice now and it has opened many doors for us. The takeaway for me was that anything is possible, you just have to try!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

Burgh’ers was planned to open first in 2008 in Lawrenceville… But we had a lot of things not go our way. Someone backed out of a sale, another deal with the URA didn’t go through, I had no money, no driver’s license; it was a mess. On a day that seemed like opening a restaurant was never going to happen, I got a phone call from a landlord in Zelienople, PA. He said a mutual friend told him I was looking for a space. I wasn’t looking to open a restaurant that far north of the city, but we went to look at it. It was a fully operational restaurant that just needed a little TLC. We had zero money, not even enough for the down payment. So I somehow convinced the landlord to give me a chance and that over the next three months I would pay him rent and the down payment. WOW. This location had no street visibility, no signage, nothing. Everyone I talked to said not to do it. So of course I did it. There were days when not a single costumer came in; not one! But we were determined to serve the best burger we could, using only local produce, cooking everything to order, and making everything from scratch. We worked our asses off; it was just me, my Dad and my wife with help from random family and friends for the first two years. We were making really good creative burgers and the next thing we know we won best burger in Pittsburgh, we didn’t even know until a camera crew came busting through the doors. It was crazy!

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

Craveability. When I cook, I’m looking to spark something from your childhood. Take you back to that special time that we all go back to when we eat or smell something that we love. I think it takes us back to simpler times. At both restaurants, when older folks say “I haven’t eaten a burger like that since I was a child” or “I moved from Italy three years ago and this is the first time in this country I’ve eaten food that took me back home.” For me, that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

Anything that’s made using all of your senses, and love. Food made with passion, pride, and fresh, well grown ingredients will always be very enjoyable for me!

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

I’m very competitive, detail oriented and a perfectionist. I want to be the best and I want the people around me to want the same. I push my teams in a positive way to do and be all they can because without them my restaurants don’t exist. I travel, read and eat a lot. I cook a lot; I push myself to learn new things all the time.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

We are expanding the entire restaurant group and getting ready to make some very big moves for what’s now known as Burgh’ers Brewing — another fascinating story! My dream Italian restaurant is set to open in October of this year. This will give me the tools I need to do truly great things with Della Terra and my team there.

What advice would you give to other chefs or restauranteurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’m still learning this but I think I’m getting it. You must take time for yourself and the people you love. You must moderate everything. It’s ok to run out of food and take days off and close early, you must! It’s ok to close for a week! But always maintain the vision you want for your restaurant and never look back. Talking to other restaurateurs, I believe that we really go above and beyond for our teams, and I think that’s why we have been doing so well. Please treat your employees well.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Keep it small and close at least one day a week, two if you can

2. Buy only the best of everything within what you can afford, and do not take

shortcuts

3. Location DOES NOT matter

4. This will be the hardest thing that you have ever done; you will miss out on everything

5. You will never be rich, you will never make enough money, and you will not be paying yourself for a very long time.

What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?

The liberty burger at Burgh’ers is a classic American burger, super simple but delicious. And the pickle brined fried chicken — you have to try it!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

When we opened Burgh’ers we had a pipe dream that we could educate people on the importance of eating food grown locally and humanely in soils that were mineral rich and packed with nutrients. We would inspire people to eat more naturally in order to be healthier, happier and live longer. I would encourage people to never eat processed sugars, or foods with chemicals, to help put a squeeze on the corporations that are profiting from an unhealthy nation, and to be able to limit their interactions with big Pharma. I believe if people restricted the things they consumed that come from boxes or packets or pressed we would have a much healthier population with less illness. I would encourage people to think about what they’re consuming. This would have a very positive impact on the environment as well. There is so much science linking mineral deficiencies and mental illness. If we could convince the consumer to buy more from people growing, preparing, and selling food grown at or above organic standards, I believe we would be a much more active, healthy, and happy country!

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Carly Martinetti

Written by

2x pet tech founder, publicist, writer, and dog mom. I love learning about what makes CEOs tick.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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