The Pied Pipers of Reno

The Pied Pipers of Reno

written by

Business partners discover recipes for success.

It was a dark and stormy night … That’s how this story begins. No kidding. 

On a visit to Seattle, Ryan Goldhammer had an after-concert yen for pizza at 2:30 a.m. Following a long walk and an hour-long wait in the pouring rain, that much-anticipated slice proved disappointing. Goldhammer swears that rainy night was the start of his quest for the Holy Grail of pizza. 

Coincidentally, at the opposite end of the country, Trevor Leppek was on one of many business trips to New York when he discovered that renowned culinary delight: New York pizza. 

“It was a real ‘aha moment,’” Leppek says. “I realized I had never tasted good pizza until then. I did a lot of ‘market research,’ eating my way through the pizzas of New York!”

So, independently and 3,000 miles apart, both men came to the same conclusion: Their hometown of Reno desperately needed a better pizza.

The guys knew one another, casually, as both had occasionally frequented a pub near University of Nevada, Reno, since their college days. That was their only connection. 

But Goldhammer, with his newly hatched business idea and some capital in hand, was seeking a partner. And once again, coincidentally, Leppek was thinking about a pizza business and happened to be looking at the exact same location: the old El Cortez Hotel building in Downtown Reno. It was kismet. In a matter of days, their partnership was formed. 

As they put their minds and talents together, the concept expanded. It had to be a place that served fantastic pizza, by the pie or the slice, as well as great beverages (including craft cocktails). And it would be open until the wee hours of the morning — fitting for a 24-hour town. A novel concept for the area, Noble Pie Parlor opened in August 2010.

“I think we created a marketplace in Reno for a kind of pizza shop that didn’t exist,” Goldhammer says. 

It was clearly a niche that needed to be filled; customer demand fueled the addition of two new locations, in Midtown Reno and at The Summit mall. 

Great chemistry

Goldhammer is the back-of-the-house genius, the food guy, and hearing him talk about pizza is akin to a science lesson. He says the key to making great pizza is being incredibly knowledgeable about the ingredients. He can tell you how the pH of tomatoes, quality of the soil, protein and ash content of the flour, and even mineral content of Reno’s water affect flavor. 

Still, Goldhammer admits he learned to cook by watching the Food Network as a youth, never imagining that, years later, he actually would be featured on one of its shows: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri recently featured Noble Pie. 

Goldhammer worked at a pizza shop throughout college, learning all he could about techniques and the business. He also credits great mentoring by some accomplished chef friends for what he knows about cooking. Plus, his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, unlimited motivation, and a boundless passion for his work certainly have contributed to the business’ success. 

Much of the same can be said of Leppek, the front-of-the-house/behind-the-bar partner who also is self-taught. Although he calls himself simply a bartender (declaring mixologist too pretentious a term), he is a master at crafting cocktails. 

He bartended his way through college, then landed a great corporate job with a bright future that took him around the world. But he missed the bar scene, so he took on a weekend bartending gig at a local restaurant with a craft cocktail menu. That was a turning point. 

Leppek began learning about flavor profiles of different spirits and liqueurs — how they react together and how to use fresh ingredients to make inspired cocktails. He had found his nirvana. He quit his corporate job and dove into the science of crafting cocktails. 

But the real chemistry here is the one between partners: Goldhammer the dreamer and Leppek the pragmatist. 

“I throw a lasso at the moon and Trevor’s there to kind of say, ‘Hold on a second, let’s talk about the details,’” Goldhammer says with a laugh.

Pig out on the patio

Their partnership has spanned 10 years and counting. They’ve won numerous awards and recognitions for both their food and cocktail offerings, and their business portfolio has expanded to include another previously unheard-of concept: Pignic Pub & Patio.

Pignic was another idea that might have elicited skepticism. The initial idea was to create a friendly, welcoming environment where people would bring their own food and prepare it themselves on site. The venue provides an outdoor area featuring grills and cooking stations equipped with cutting boards, utensils, etc. The best part? Pignic staff will clean up after you! On weekends, you’ll even find free live music. 

“Basically, it’s a bring-your-own-adventure grilling yard,” Leppek says. “People cook their own food but buy beverages from us.” 

Outlandish? Perhaps. But it works. People went crazy over the idea. Pignic even was featured on The Zimmern List, a travel and cuisine TV show on the Travel Channel. In addition to the self-grillers, many people book the venue for birthday parties, corporate meetings, even weddings, which the Pignic staff is happy to cater. 

Since its opening in 2014, Pignic has grown to include the Pignic Shack, Reno’s first permanent, exterior trailer kitchen. Specializing in a unique menu of Creole, Cajun, and Southern soul food along with slow-barbecued meats, the Shack provides food for Pignic customers not wanting to grill their own.

“We started off with one idea and then we did it,” Goldhammer says. “So you say, ‘What else can we do?’ And the ideas keep coming. I have like 30 places I would like to open. So many concepts and ideas.” 

So let’s just say the two restaurateurs’ story is to be continued. 

Reno writer Barbara Twitchell spent the first 25 years of her life in New York City, indulging in some pretty awesome pizza. She’s also half Italian. Therefore, she claims that, genetically and geographically, she was predestined to write this story.

Dandy Danny Walton
(courtesy of Trevor Leppek, co-owner/bartender, Noble Pie Parlor and Pignic Pub & Patio in Reno. Serves 1)

web Cocktails 2020 089b
Leppek calls this “a nice, refreshing summer drink that’s super popular and has been on our menu for almost six years.” Photo by Cheris Triplett


1½ ounces Frey Ranch gin
½ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
¾ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sage leaf, for garnish 

Pour gin, Chartreuse, juices, and bitters into shaker. Add ice, cap the shaker, and shake for 7 to 8 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass (traditional wide Champagne glass). Smack sage leaf in palm of hand to release its flavor and aroma, and lay on top of drink.

Reno writer Barbara Twitchell employs reusable bags every time she shops. After researching this story and reading Harris’ book, she has discovered many more plastic-free practices she is excited to adopt!


Stay updated with our Newsletter

Discover new products, thriving traditions, or exciting food events, festivals, restaurants, and markets – all of the things that are helping to make us a true culinary destination.

Contact Us

edible Reno-Tahoe
316 California Ave., No. 258,
Reno, NV 89509.
(775) 746 3299

Stay updated with our Newsletter

Discover new products, thriving traditions, or exciting food events, festivals, restaurants, and markets – all of the things that are helping to make us a true culinary destination.