116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The newest pizzeria in the Czech Village serves authentic Old World style from its taps.
With 20 mostly local craft brews at a time, 10 taps will remain static and 10 will rotate. But one tap offers the world’s first pale lager: the Pilsner Urquell that has been brewed in the Czech Republic since 1839.
At Hospoda, aptly named after the Czech word for “pub,” you can enjoy the Pilsner with a traditional three-finger foam pour from a side-pour faucet made for beers like this.
“The foam protects the beer from oxygen — oxygen is the number one enemy of beer,” said co-owner Eric Lennie, who has a background in beer sales with Big Grove. “It’s a very fun beer to pour — you can dictate how much (foam) comes out.”
For now, Hospoda is only offering what they call the smooth pour. But later, they plan to offer other types of pours that drinkers can get in the Czech Republic. Another favorite of Lennie’s is the milk pour, which is virtually nothing but foam.
The foam, sweeter than the beer itself, resembles a glass of milk and is often served as a dessert drink or an after-dinner digestive at the end of the evening.
“It’s our way of bringing Czech heritage,” Lennie said.
Like many ideas, Hospoda was concocted over drinks at the nearby Lion Bridge Brewing Company between Lennie, who has lived near the Czech Village since 2005, and co-owner Manny Maldonado, who has experience as the former regional manager of Perkins and general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings.
After seeing the ups and downs of the neighborhood since 2005, Lennie wanted to bring a positive impact to the community that honored its heritage. With a mutual passion for good beer, the business partners saw the closure of Aces and Eights Saloon as their chance to make good on a longtime vision.
The transformation from a bar to what is now primarily a restaurant involved a few changes: taking down the disco ball, rebuilding the bar and installing a new door just to get the brick pizza oven in.
The wood-fired brick oven, made in France, was assembled in Texas and shipped in one giant piece. A new entry was made off the restaurant’s side patio to get it inside, where it has taken up residence next to the bar.
With high school beginnings at a coal-fired pizzeria, Maldonado, 52, employs a coal-fired dough recipe tailored specifically to this oven, using a finely-ground 00 Italian flour that has more stretch than the Neapolitan style used in other brick ovens. With a temperature of about 950 degrees toward the top of the oven and 650 at the bottom, the dough comes out fluffier and larger than 10-inch Neapolitan pizzas.
“I stayed with the coal-fired recipes so I could make bigger pizzas,” said Maldonado, an Orlando native who has lived in Cedar Rapids for 12 years. “It’s something the neighborhood didn’t have — something that’s unique.”
Their menu sports a variety of pizza options the co-owners landed on as “the most creative” while being “most palatable,” like their lasagna pizza, Hawaiian-themed Big Kahuna, White Clam and the popular Pistachio Pesto topped with Berkshire sausage and a sweet honey drizzle on the crust.
Opened at the end of November, the restaurant’s ambience already was in place before they moved in, with stone walls and copper tone ceilings that set a European feel.
“We get a lot of comments that it has this European sort of castle vibe,” said Lennie, 36.
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