While there is New York pizza with a soft chewy crust and Chicago pizzas with a thick and bready crust, there is something about a brick oven and wood fire that brings out the best in a pie. The smoldering hot ovens that bake the dough, melt the cheese and caramelize the toppings impart a slightly charred, barely sweet and mildly roasted flavor. Here are a few brick oven pizza spots that have mastered the art of fire and dough.
3601 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303
Chef Kelly Whitaker loves to play with fire. From smoked vanilla ice cream to wood-fired pizza, Whitaker is a master of smoke and flavor. He uses 00 flour, a silky flour that makes soft, smooth dough and bakes up beautifully in the wood oven that sits behind the bar so diners can watch their pizza come out smoking hot. For traditionalists, the Daisy pizza is a take on the classic margherita with tomato sauce, basil and olive oil, creating a final product that’s simple and purely good. The pizzas change with the seasons, but two spring/summer pizzas that will please foodies are the Cart-Driver, a playful blend of rapini, mozzarella, fennel pollen and hot chilies, and the Market pizza with creminelli mortadella, pistachio, red onion and mozzarella.
Marco’s Coal Fired Pizzeria
2129 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80205
Marco’s is serious about authenticity. The Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napolitana trains all of the pizza chefs and the Verace Pizza Napoletana certified the restaurant as an authentic Neapolitan restaurant. Marco’s divides its pizza menu into Napoletana and New York pies. The Italian pies use San Marzano tomatoes, prosciutto di Parma, pecorino sardo, Genoa salami and truffle spreads. The New York pies are packed with hearty toppings like sweet Italian sausage, meatballs, roasted peppers and lemoncello chicken. Marco’s offers delivery specials for two to four people from $39 to $49 that include salads and/or appetizers, two pizzas, dessert and drinks. Marco’s also has brunch pizzas on the weekend, topped with eggs and other breakfast favorites.
Basic Kneads Pizza Truck
The Basic Kneads Basic is a wood-fired pizza truck that is often parked at Great Divide Brewing Company (Mondays and Fridays) and Denver Beer Co. (Thursdays). For now, you will have to keep track of the truck’s locations online, but it says a brick and mortar restaurant is coming soon. The three brothers who founded the company (Joel, Reid and Eric) make a mean pizza that only takes a few minutes while you wait. They put beetle-kill pine to good use in their 800-degree pizza ovens. The crust is a 50/50 split of whole-wheat flour and refined Colorado flours, so it’s healthy and local. The toppings are abundant ranging from fennel sausage, roasted chicken, tons of veggies and real cheese.
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1453 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80202
As with everything executive chef Frank Bonanno does, Osteria Marco is not just another pizza place, it’s a haven of fine dining in a casual atmosphere that serves pizzas along with other Italian favorites like paninis, pastas and roasted meats. Take advantage of Bonanno’s flavor combination expertise with truffle oil and wild mushrooms or pancetta, egg and pecorino Toscano. Another favorite is figs, prosciutto, goat and fontina cheese and truffle oil.
Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletano
2401 15th St
Denver, CO 80202
When Pam Proto opened her first authentic pizzeria in Longmont, few in the area had ever tasted a true Italian pizza. Now that Proto’s has five locations, the pizzeria is a household name and Coloradans understand the difference between an Americanized pizza and authentic Neopolitan pizza. There is always a pie of the day at Proto’s, but the favorites continue to be the Goombah with tomato sauce, capers and imported prosciutto and the Atomica Pie with mozzarella, oregano, garlic, crushed red pepper, mozzarella, tomato sauce and black olives all topped with Italian sausage. For wild-side pizza lovers who go for the goo, there is always the Traffic Jam with tomato sauce, sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and whole-milk mozzarella.
Lala’s Wine Bar and Pizzeria
410 E 7th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
Lala’s is part wine bar, part bistro and part wood-fired pizzeria. The fried olives are a huge hit as a pre-pizza appetizer. As for the pies, share a few with friends to get the full scope. Pizzas come naked (like Michelangelo’s David) with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and roasted garlic, or with San Marzano tomato traditional red sauce. Suggested pizzas that aim to please are Nonna’s with sweet and spicy pappadew peppers and sausage and the Aglio Tilio with spring garlic, heirloom grape tomatoes, parmesan fontina, housemade mozzarella and basil.
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.