By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
As they did with Caporuscio, the Dyms try to acquire the best of everything to put on those crusts — and when the best isn't readily available, they make their own. So the tomato sauce on the pizzas is San Marzano, imported from Italy, the only sauce that should ever be used on a serious pizza. The produce is locally grown (whenever possible), the mozzarella made by hand.
First night, I had the Sicilia, stuffed with ricotta and thin-cut Genoa salami, topped with chopped artichoke, ham and slabs of fresh-made mozzarella melted into a Rorschach pattern, barely holding their form. The stuffed crust was soft, charred at the edges and powerfully redolent of smoke, with an almost gooey quality that surprised me, made me wonder if maybe sixty-five seconds might not have been a bad idea. The Campania that followed it, though, settled my hash: so plain and perfect, just mozzarella and a couple charred leaves of basil; crisp-bottomed under a light jacket of chunky, sweet, gorgeous San Marzano sauce; swollen at the bone and gently tasting of fresh wheat. They were two completely different pies, all their character showing in the minute variations in the crust.
Second night, I ordered the Staten Island — more mozzarella, more salami, Pecorino Romano and tomato sauce — and a Margherita, a Staten Island without the salami, then carefully watched the cook manning the stoves. The Margherita went in second and was pulled first, receiving perhaps four seconds less love from the brick and wood and fire, and those four seconds made all the difference in the world. It was smoothly risen at the bone, droopingly soft at the center, and the bottom was mottled, brown and pure bone-white like a palomino horse. The Staten Island was black and white — like a roughly sketched pen-and-ink map of an island-chain kingdom of infatuated pizza-makers — its skin raised in tiny, blackened blisters and crisp as pork cracklings, unbelievably delicious.
2129 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80205
Region: Downtown Denver
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Third night, I got the Abruzzo: Buffalo mozz, parm Reggiano, Sardinian Gran Cru and Sicilian caciocavallo. This time I didn't notice the crust at all, because I was too focused on the unusual interplay of mozz and parm, something that tasted a little like a good, funky provolone, something else that tasted like maybe a fontina or a Gruyère, but wasn't. The result was like the multi-cheese pizza God must get when he goes out for a slice — unlike most multi-cheese pizzas, which just taste like a foot. When I finally slowed down enough to look, I saw that this crust was stiffer than all my previous pizzas, smokier, more redolent of coals. If bread could (or should) be barbecued, it would taste like this.
But even those ovens can't save the chicken wings — dressed in oregano, lemon and black pepper, topped with a pile of roasted sweet onion slices, then blasted right alongside the pizza. I made two runs at them before deciding, once and for all, that chicken wings are why the Frialator was invented and that eating chicken wings without wing sauce is like eating chicken wings that someone forgot to sauce, nothing more — an oversight raised to the level of cuisine, but one of which I, a Buffalo purist, am no fan. Much better was the antipasti — a huge white plate set with a spread that said, "Hey! Here's a little bit of everything that's awesome in the back." The prosciutto was San Danielle and sliced as thin as a dream, thin enough to see through, to melt on my tongue. There was a little Genoa salami, some sopresata doused in olive oil, three cheeses, dots of unbelievably sweet aged and reduced balsamic vinegar, chopped mushrooms with a little oil and parsley, some focaccia bread (not made fresh, but warmed in the oven) and a whole red pepper stuffed with delicious brown tuna in olive oil that lit my entire head on fire.
Marco's is what comes of aiming for the best, of refusing to settle for anything less. And while it is true that I have, and always will have, a soft spot for the crazies out there — the cooks and chefs who refuse to compromise, who will not bend no matter how strong the cross-current of modern taste — I firmly believe that it is only in pushing the boundaries of what is possible that one approaches transcendence. At Marco's, the Dyms, their crew and their chef have shown the complexity, variation and beauty inherent in something as simple as a pizza. By refusing to compromise, they have shown what a pizza can be when no expense, no effort, no amount of mileage is spared.
Even if I still think they should have made a side trip to Buffalo before they decided to make chicken wings.