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Pizza shop owner aims to make food people will flip for

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Sharon Drake | The Herald
Aaron Parise throws the pizza dough in the traditional fashion, a technique that he says makes the best crust.

Name: Aaron Parise.

Age: 34.

Hometown: O'Hara.

Family: Wife, Christine; son, Connor Michael, 1.

Business: flip‘n pie.

Dream vacation: Returning to Italy.

By Sharon Drake
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Aaron Parise has an artist's hands — strong, agile and flexible.

He also has a creative side that has been honed by training and education.

Now he melds his experiences together to heat up his new business.

The young entrepreneur has had the idea of opening a small, community-based pizza shop in the back of his mind.

“Those are the places I grew up (in),” the O'Hara resident said.

He jokes that he could foresee franchising his pizzeria but never wanted to work for a big company.

In fact, when Aaron took over the shop at the O'Hara side of the Highland Park Bridge, he redid everything.

First was rebranding the store, which included creating a new logo.

His brother, an artist, drew a new logo that included a picture of a little figure flipping a pie an the letter “i” in the first word of the shop's name — flip'n.

They officially changed to the new name — flip'n pie — last spring.

Another change was the menu. Aaron knew the salads were popular so he kept the romaine-heart mix the same and combines those with grilled specials such as chicken.

The pizzas are all his creations — from nomenclature to ingredients.

The “Christine” is named after his wife and is a whole-wheat crust pizza modified from one she ate in Italy.

The “Eighth Grade Dance” has eight toppings.

Aaron, the chief cook and bottle washer, makes everything — from his own sauces to meatballs to pizza crust.

“It's like anything else,” he said. “You've got to have pride in your work.

“I still want it to be mine.”

He said his favorite pizza crust is the square Sicilian, which is crusty on the outside and soft inside.

But it is probably most fun to watch him make the traditional round pizza because he spins the dough above his head, actually tossing it up toward the ceiling.

It's not just a statement in style that makes him flip the pizza.

“It's using different forces, gravity and centrifugal, in a quicker fashion. The airflow tans the dough, like clay, and helps the crust get crispier,” the former art teacher said.

Aaron attended Penn State University and earned his bachelor's degree in art education. Also, he trained as a graphic designer.

While he is not in a classroom or a studio, he is happy.

“I'm teaching every day,” he said of his relationship with his young workers.

“Everything I've done has led up to me going into business. I'm using all the skills I've got.”

Aaron said opening his own business was in the back of his mind, but he was so busy with life and working he never “had time to gather myself together.”

When he heard about this shop with its ovens and small eating area, five minutes from his Kittanning Pike home, he turned on the heat to make it happen.

The icing on the cake is Aaron is five minutes from his son's day care, too; so he can visit during the day.

The young family man admits running his own business eats up his time. He is there to open and close every day.

“Even when I'm not there I'm still working,” he said.

As busy as he gets, Aaron puts art into his life.

He displays a friend's photographs in the eating area and an Aspinwall baseball jersey on a wall.

Local youngsters bring their coloring of his logo to the shop. And local store owners give good advice.

“In Aspinwall people actually support each other,” he said. “They care; they have pride.”

There are many benefits to Aaron's new business, but perhaps the greatest is doing a job he likes.

Aaron said, “I like the whole process because I am a hands-on person. I am part of the entire finished product.”

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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