With so many different regional styles and an endless string of toppings that flip flop from macaroni to Manila clams, it's no surprise that pizza sparks heated conversations. But in Denver, we have a pizza for just about every palate. Here are seven recently opened restaurants whose pizzas rise above the rim.
Inspired by the auto-grills that dot Italy's Autostrada, this sliver of a space from chef and co-owner Kelly Whitaker (Basta) rewards patrons with superlative Neapolitan pizzas that emerge from the wood-fired oven with lightly singed, chewy crusts smeared with a white sauce scented with garlic or a vine-ripened, organic tomato sauce. They're crested with high-end toppings, including littleneck clams (pictured below), Asian pears and terrific sausage from Western Daughters (a local butchery) and finished with mists of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil.
Insider Tip: Despite its fast-casual setup, there are plenty of reasons to hang out, including excellent oysters, batched cocktails, impressive beer and wine rosters and organic soft-serve gelato.
2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-3553
Fans of this Ballpark pizzeria, which got its start in Wisconsin, also love the out-of-the-box toppings and clever flavor combinations that zigzag from smoked brisket and tots to a pizza drizzled with crème fraîche and stacked with elbow macaroni and cheddar. Served in contemporary quarters exposing brushed metal and light-hued wood, the pies are available whole or by the slice and are complemented by a small bar that pours beer.
Insider Tip: Pizza may be the major magnet here, but it's not all about the dough: several signature salads, coupled with a build-your-own salad bar, star super-fresh ingredients.
2210 Blake St.; 303-296-9000
Jean-Philippe Failyau, founder of Park Burger, has a huge hit on his hands with this Wash Park Italian devoted to pastas and pizzas. The pies (pictured below) are yanked from a wood-burning oven, their lightly charred thin and elastic crusts glossed with white or red sauce and peppered with primo ingredients (pancetta, rosemary-scented ham, prosciutto, Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella and pepperoncini) that are judiciously applied.
Insider Tip: It's easy to feel good about knocking back pizza and beer here. Homegrown's brew-dominated bar also has a charitable bent: there's a "buy-a-friend-a-drink" chalkboard if you want to pay it forward.
1001 S. Gaylord St.; 720-459-8736
Hickory and oak logs smoldering inside a showy white-tiled, wood-fired oven blaze and blister Gozo's terrific thin-crust pizzas topped with everything from potatoes, red onions, fresh rosemary and mozzarella to charred spinach, Manila clams and pecorino.
Insider Tip: The worldly wine list is a marvel, and wines by the glass, all of which are fairly priced, are available in three- or six-oz. pours.
30 S. Broadway; 720-638-1462
It's only been open a week, but already this non-pizza-focused West Wash Park newcomer is popping out some exceptional pies. Baked in an old-fashioned deck oven, the misshapen crusts, freckled with blots of black bubbles, are thin and crisp, and the toppings, which range from acorn squash to beef short ribs mulled in cider, stray from the ordinary, although purists will undoubtedly appreciate the pepperoni pie with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce.
Insider Tip: The craft-cocktail scroll, created by renowned barman and consultant Sean Kenyon (Williams & Graham), favors whiskey-based drinks, and if you want to indulge in one of Colorado's best whiskeys, try the Sawbuck, made with local A. D. Laws four-grain straight bourbon whiskey, ginger beer, allspice dram and pear liqueur.
305 S. Downing St.; 303-733-3923
In early October, the owners of Boulder's fantastic Frasca Food and Wine unleashed their third Chipotle-backed Neapolitan pizzeria, this time in Highland, and while it mostly mirrors its first Denver location (the original is in Boulder), the founders introduced something completely new: a nutty and buttery crust made from nutrient-heavy Edison whole wheat, an heirloom variety that's grown on the grasslands of a small farm in Oregon and milled in-house. The lightweight rounds (pictured below), sparingly scattered with excellent ingredients, take just a few minutes to cook, and the results are sensational.
Insider Tip: Served in a shot glass, the creamy butterscotch budino topped with a milk chocolate ganache is the only sugar finale that Pizzeria Locale features, and you'd be crazy not to order it.
3484 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-302-2451
This much-anticipated sophomore effort from Giancarlo Macchiarella, who continues to thrill foodniks at Locanda Del Borgo, opened in October and features an exhibition kitchen, complete with a custom-built wood-fired oven that churns out airy, raised-rim pizzas whose crusts aren't quite as paper-thin as other Neapolitan pies. Seven variations include a must-try white pizza that's topped with Gorgonzola, mozzarella, taleggio and roasted flecks of pancetta.
Insider Tip: Happy hour runs from 4:30-6 PM Monday through Friday and offers discounts on both food and drinks, including wines from an extensive library of around-the-world bottles.
7561 E. Academy Blvd.; 303-366-1315