The Mais at Pizzeria Locale, the Carbonara at Osteria Marco, the Starita at Racca’s, Bar Dough’s Mountain Man: These are just a few of the masterpieces we’d put in the pantheon of Denver pies. But there’s plenty of room for more — and right now, we’ve got these 10 on our short list.
Roasted cauliflower flatbread at Avelina
This may not be a traditional pizza, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t quintessentially Italian. In fact, recipes for pasta tossed with cauliflower, capers, Parmesan and breadcrumbs (along, perhaps, with anchovies, raisins and/or pine nuts) abound in Italy. At Avelina, chefs John Broening and Bradley Yard simply trade the noodles for crust, and presto — a comfort staple for sophisticates is born.
1550 17th St.; 720-904-6711
The Massimeno at Vero
From the luscious Uovo to the sprightly Pomodoro Fresco, there isn’t a dud among the pies Il Posto's Andrea Frizzi and his team are slinging at their new stall in The Denver Central Market. But the Massimeno is our favorite for the smoky, salty, bitter and velvety sensations it yields via rosettes of speck, shredded radicchio and dollops of stracchino, all woven generously through a blanket of smoked mozzarella.
Fall pie at Cart-Driver
Warm, earthy base flavors, briny top notes, a blistered crust and a runny yolk: Here’s yet another winner from RiNo’s tiniest runaway hit, with chunks of tuna and capers joining zingy Romesco sauce, roasted sunchokes and a soft egg for a vivid study in contrasts. Sliced pecorino melts slowly in to tie it all together.
2500 Larimer St.; 303-292-3553
Grilled lamb pizza at Mister Tuna
Romesco — Spain’s robust, paprika- and garlic-laced sauce of roasted red peppers and almonds — seems to be having a moment in Denver, because it also stars on this rustic-toned beauty at Troy Guard’s white-hot new RiNo spot, standing out amid rich and tender shreds of charcoal-roasted lamb, fontina cheese and chopped spinach.
3033 Brighton Blvd.; 303-831-8862
The French Onion at The Crafty Fox Taphouse & Pizzeria
With caramelized onions, braised short ribs and Swiss cheese — as well as a little rosemary-Parmesan bèchamel — this pie has all the heartiness and depth of the classic potage it's named for. But it could as easily be called, say, the Beer Bash: Not only does the dough contain wort (the liquid portion of malted-barley mash) from Diebolt Brewing, but the beef and onions are also cooked with it. It’s like you’re getting a crock of soup, a pint of ale and a pizza all in one.
3901 Fox St.; 303-455-9666
The Koto at Blue Pan Pizza
Most of the kudos this wee West Highland shop gets for its Detroit-style deep-dish pies go to the salumi-heavy combos that have also earned pizzaiolo Jeff Smokevitch numerous awards at international competitions. But that doesn’t mean the vegetarian offerings are afterthoughts — quite the contrary, in fact. Smokevitch put his heart into perfecting the spinach-artichoke sauce that makes the Koto so special; creamy and funky, it both complements roasted garlic and balances out the bright tang of the sun-dried and roasted cherry tomatoes.
3930 W. 32nd Ave.; 720-456-7666
Broccoli + Tater at Mas Kaos Pizzeria + Taqueria
Stuffed baked spuds count among the greatest culinary hits of the 1980s. At this big-time Berkeley arrival, Patrick Mangold-White and crew do them proud on a pie that layers golden-browned, crispy-soft sliced potatoes, broccoli florets and garlic cloves over a bubbling bed of white cheddar. For maximum comfort, a drizzle of crème fraîche stands in for a dollop of good old sour cream.
4526 Tennyson St.; 720-638-2100
The Popper at Wazee Supper Club
Even the crust at this little slice of old LoDo has a history: the kitchen recently returned to the dough recipe it used back in the 1970s. The cornmeal-laced, cracker-crisp result supports all manner of topping combos, but it's especially apt for the guilty pleasure that is the Popper: its crunch evokes tortilla chips, fitting for a play on stuffed jalapeños with sliced chiles, crumbled bacon, onion straws and the Great Dairy Trifecta — cream cheese, mozzarella and ranch.
1600 15th St.; 303-623-9518
Bella Tessa at Angelo's Taverna
Aside from its semirural setting (on the grounds of Carboy Winery in Littleton), the second location of Angelo’s is a lot like the Alamo Placito original — a modern take on the red-sauce parlors of old. Most of its pizzas are gut bombs, and that's how we like 'em. But the kitchen can also pull off elegantly simple exceptions to the kitchen-sink rule that Angelo's generally follows; the Bella Tessa, with its tradition-minded combination of mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh arugula, mushrooms and just a touch of truffle oil, is proof.
6885 S. Santa Fe Dr., Littleton; 720-532-1389
The Munchy Mango at Pie Hole
Do chopped mango, brown sugar–roasted jalapeños, scallions and Thai-style peanut sauce belong together on a pizza crust? Probably not. But is it all just crazy enough to work? Heck yes. Everybody needs a totally oddball, graffiti-filled late-night dive in their lives; Pie Hole's ours thanks to this vegan creation. (Though we like to throw mozzarella and/or chicken into the mix as well.)
44 S. Broadway; 303-777-4743