For some, it will be a place that celebrates the spirit of punk music, of downtown New York south of Houston Street. The Ramones, Television, the Talking Heads, Blondie, Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys.
For others, it will be a place that brings back memories of great Edmonton venues that are no longer with us. Lining up at Rebar, with dance music on the main floor, and live punk bands upstairs. Of seeing bands at New City Likwid Lounge, or, going to the Bronx on a Friday night.
It is Soho, which is slinging New York-style, foldable pizza slices, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and is lined with posters and photos of punk icons past. There’s even a stage in the corner.
“We started this during the pandemic. We were all pretty lonely, we were all pretty tired of being locked away,” says partner Chris Curtola, national president of the Junior Chamber, land developer and son of Edmonton rock legend Bobby Curtola. “We thought, when this is done, we want to have an awesome place that’s going to have live music, meet up with our friends again and socialize.”
The “we” includes three other partners. Darren Pelechaty, who has been involved in the business of making rock and roll music both in Canada and the United States. Aaron Lang is the chef, and founded Hot Philly in north Edmonton. And, there is investor Michael Schayer.
It was Pelechaty and Lang who came up with the concept, much of it based on Pelechaty’s travels through the United States, where there are great rock ‘n’ roll bars that also serve great food and have a laissez-faire, everyone-is-welcome vibe. Pelechaty used to work for Curtola at the old Dante’s Bistro.
“I lived in the United States, and I used to go to some really cool hangs — famous rock ‘n’ roll bars, punk bars, things like that.” says Pelechaty. “I was producing records down there, having a great time. But when I got back to Canada, Edmonton specifically, I didn’t get the same vibe out of places here. And, I wanted to create the place that I wanted to hang out in.
“The whole vibe is CBGB’s, the Bowery, these [New York] bars that created a culture,” says Curtola. “We’re going for that cool, punk vibe that says we have that rebellious attitude. But the New York street food is just so good. First, we wanted to do really great New York pizza. So, super-thin, amazing sauce, cheese and hand-cut pepperoni, the slice that you really have to fold up.”
The San Marzano tomato sauce is brought in from Italy. And, yes, the pizza concept is not gourmet, but something that really goes for a nostalgic vibe. There is something religious about folding up a slab. But, my personal fave was the sausage and mushroom, just for the sheer amount of toppings. Honestly, you can never have too many mushrooms on a pizza.