When Big Bill's New York Pizza opened in 1995, it was a second outpost of Lil' Ricci's New York Pizza, then located in a strip mall off Hampden Avenue. Although Bill Ficke pulled out of the partnership and renamed his place within a year, Lil' Ricci's has continued to grow, abandoning its first dark, muraled spot in favor of more airy, corporate-feeling locations in the Tech Center, Highlands Ranch, Parker and Golden that serve fast slices to business lunchers and whole pies to families at dinner.
While both Big Bill's and Lil' Ricci's have met with success, they haven't exactly buried the hachet. My brother once bused tables at Big Bill's, and he remembers bad blood over the garlic knots: According to longtime waiters at Big Bill's, Lil' Ricci's stole the recipe. And sure enough, garlic knots are the very first thing listed on the Lil' Ricci's menu, which also includes a roster of dinner salads and calzones almost identical to those offered at Big Bill's.
Lil' Ricci's New York Pizza
5332 DTC Boulevard, Greenwood Village
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday;
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, however. And even though Ficke may still be seething over the theft, he can take solace in the knowledge that the Lil' Ricci's version of the starter is inferior: These knots are larger, doughier and less flavorful than those at Big Bill's.
But the slice of New York-style pie I ate at Lil' Ricci's was just as good as the slice at Big Bill's — and an exact replica of the wedges I once shoved in my face after a night of drunken debauchery in Manhattan, using two paper plates to sop up the grease dripping from the surface of my snack. With one critical difference: Lil' Ricci's isn't open late.