Wazee Wood-Fire Pizza, Charlie Palmer's tribute to New York-style pies, opens today at 11 a.m. downtown at 1631 Wazee Street, directly next door to District Meats, which the New York-based star chef unleashed in October.
The space, bedecked with reclaimed tractor chairs (not the most comfortable seating I've seen), scaffolding planks shelved with Italian products, many of which chef Jeff Russell uses on his pizzas, a white-stained wooden community table and an open kitchen exposing a black Bakers Pride, gas-fired Il Forno Classic pizza oven, feels requisitely -- and deliberately -- urban. "It carries the same design theme of District Meats, insomuch that it has a casual, warehouse district vibe," says Russell.
And the pizzas -- thin-crusted, bereft of char and judiciously roofed with ingredients like Brussels sprouts, smoked salmon and duck confit -- are cosmopolitan, too. "We're using really high-quality ingredients, but we don't have a litany of them, because Charlie wanted to keep it simple," explains Russell, adding that the products that grace the shelves -- Roseli tomato paste, imported flour, Alta Cucina plum tomatoes, Bellagio pure olive oil -- are all part of the "kitchen's commitment to using the products that perform the best."
And the oven, notes Russell, which arrived in Denver the same day he did, is "designed for consistency and temperature maintenance." The oven will be fueled by wood -- a mixture of apple, pecan and hickory -- to impart flavor, and the pizzas, depending on their size, spend anywhere from seven to twelve minutes surrounded by embers. In addition to whole pies, Wazee is also hustling slices, along with a veal and ricotta meatball grinder, salads and a salumi plate sourced from Il Mondo Vecchio.
I stopped by on Saturday to get a taste of what Russell and his team have planned, and while I didn't sample the grinder or salads, I tried just about every pizza, including the Aristocrat, which was definitely my favorite. Herewith, the photos of that pizza -- and more.
The Norwegian: Smoked salmon, Yukon Gold potato chips, fresh dill, caraway and cream cheese. "It's like a smoked salmon bagel," says Russell.
Mulberry Street: Named for a street in New York, this pizza is topped with sopressata, pancetta, Parmesan and tarps of prosciutto.
Traditional pie: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
White pizza: Ricotta, whole mozzarella, aged pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano and oregano.
Western New Yorker: Grilled chicken, blue cheese and hot sauce. "Technically, it's a Buffalo-style pizza, but I'm calling it Rochester-style, because that's where I'm from -- and we have better wings," Russell insists.
The Aristocrat: Duck confit, arugula, goat cheese and lemon zest.
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The Defendorf: Named for Russell's grandfather, whose last name is Defendorf, this pizza arrives crowned with Brussels sprouts, ground veal, caramelized onions and Gruyere.
Wazee Wood-Fire Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.