"If you're going to take Vienna, take Vienna."
Napoleon said that, and I've always liked the line. He was speaking, of course, not just about sacking Austria's capital, but of a certain conqueror's mindset: Don't just say you're going to do something; do it. And once you've started, see it through to the finish.
Granted, reviewing restaurants in Denver, Colorado, isn't quite the same as a short man attempting to become Emperor of the World (the goal of Napoleon, who hoped to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Hannibal), but I've still always had a soft spot for that megalomaniacal little fruit loop, and prefer the echo of his voice down through history to that of myriad other military men, whose words exist today mostly on inspirational workplace posters and in books on office-management theory.
"If you're going to take Vienna, take Vienna." And if you're going to talk to the new owner of a pizza joint about how excited you are to check out the improvements he's wrought, just get down there and do it.
I made it to Pizzeria Mundo less than a day after talking with Patrick Pool, who'd taken over the place from his brother. When I'd last visited Pizzeria Mundo in its original incarnation, I was the only one there — sitting alone in the hard, angular dining room, eating some kind of weird international pizza and listening to the hissing sound of a LoDo restaurant quietly hemorrhaging money. This time, the place was very different. For starters, the menu had been simplified drastically — to just six pizzas, some pastas, sandwiches, salads — and was written in colored chalk on a black-painted stretch of the wall. I had a New York (red sauce, pepperoni, really good sliced sausage and fresh mozzarella, made in-house twice a day), a couple of 75-cent PBRs (served off the tap, in short pilsner glasses) and a Caprese sandwich of tomato, basil and mozz on focaccia that had baked while I sat there drinking. The rest of the ingredients were just as fresh, with parsley plants sprouting from old tomato-sauce cans set on windowsills and sausages and salamis hanging in the opening to Mundo's small, less-than-modern kitchen.
Just a week after reopening, the place was already doing good business for late on a Friday, with about a dozen people coming and going during the time I spent sitting at the counter. Though not considerably changed structurally (still mostly long ramps, railings, curving countertops and flat-screen TVs), the dining room felt very different with people in it. And those TVs? Originally, they'd been used for slide shows of photos from the various exotic locales that had provided John Pool with his pizza-making inspiration.
Brother Patrick had them all tuned to the basketball game — and people seemed a lot happier for it.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.