Eddie Castillo said that the South American culture has the empanada, the British have the pasty, and he and his business partner Mike Caliendo are giving Arizona the hand pie.
A well-known term in the food world, a hand pie is a half-circle-shaped pastry stuffed with fresh ingredients and baked to a crispy golden brown. Castillo, 46, and Caliendo, 52, run AZ Food Crafters, and at farmers markets and their restaurant location in Chandler, they offer their pies hot and fresh or frozen and ready to take home.
“We were inspired by the street food scene, and we wanted to create something that was hand-held,” said Castillo. “… And from there, we just started playing around with different crusts, and we ended up with the name hand pie because it’s a traditional pie crust, and it’s nice and handy.”
Castillo and Caliendo have been working in the restaurant and catering industry for years. For about a decade, they had been toying around with the idea of starting a business together, but finally decided to take the plunge about three years ago, forming AZ Food Crafters in June 2011 and opening their Chandler storefront in January of this year.
Since then, they have been coming up with flavors for their pies, which can be eaten at any meal.
For breakfast, you can try fillings like turkey sausage and egg whites, or a maple bacon, potato and cheddar scramble. A breakfast hand pie and a cup of coffee costs $5.
The entrée menu offers more savory flavors, like chicken with spinach, sun dried tomato and goat cheese, green chile pork, or Italian sausage and peppers.
One of their desserts pies, called “Burning Love,” is stuffed with dark chocolate, raspberry and blackberry jams and ancho chile.
“I believe what makes our (pies) special is the crust,” said Castillo “It’s an awesome butter crust, and we use good quality butter and good quality flour … Everything’s made from scratch.”
Castillo said that 90 percent of their vegetables come from Arizona farms. Their honey comes from a local bee keeper, and a partnership with a creme brulee company that only uses egg yolks keeps hundreds of egg whites from going to waste.
Castillo said that he and Caliendo hope to see both their business and their flavor options expand in the coming years.
“We‘re going to let the pie lead the way,” said Castillo. “We just want to go wherever we can go, as far as we can go.”
What: A local duo sells hand pies stuffed with fresh ingredients out of a Chandler storefront and at farmers markets throughout the Valley.
When: AZ Food Crafters store is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Where: 961 W. Ray Road, Suite 1, Chandler
Cost: $2 to $4 per pie
Information: (602) 692-4129 or BakedHandPies.com
Ellen, a junior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.