When I moved to Denver seven years ago, fellow transplants warned me that I'd never find a pizza that compared with the ones I missed back East. For a long time that was true, but gradually I found a few longtime Denver pizzerias, many of them also good red-sauce joints, that did a respectable job -- Angelo's (620 East Sixth Avenue), Fratelli's (1200 East Hampden Avenue; see 2nd Helping, page 61), Gaetano's (3760 Tejon Street) and Valente's (6995 West 38th Avenue) among them. And in the meantime, many other places have opened that serve decent pies, even if they're a far cry from the pizzas I left behind.
Like newcomer California Pizza Kitchen (see review, previous page), the seven-year-old Bourbon Street Pizzabar and Grill (5117 South Yosemite in Greenwood Village) specializes in plopping unusual topping combinations on its medium-thick crust. For example, there's the Coney Island pie, which comes adorned with hot dogs and mustard. Basil Doc's made its debut a few years ago and now has two locations (330 Holly Street and 2107 East Virginia Avenue); Doc's prescription is a unique crispy-crackly crust that it covers with high-quality ingredients. And for the living end in exotic pies, Enzo's End (3424 East Colfax Avenue) creates incredible pizzas by combining toppings such as goat cheese and artichokes on a thin-to-medium-thick crust that's slicked with a sweet, thick sauce.
For drippy, greasy New York-style pizzas, nothing in the metro area beats the pies at Anthony's (four local outlets), New York Pizzeria (4990 Leetsdale Drive) and Abo's (305 South Downing Street in Denver, plus five Boulder locations and one in Louisville). Anthony's has the thinnest crust, but the sauce varies in sweetness depending on which location you visit (I think the 1628 East Evans Avenue spot, near the University of Denver, is the best). New York Pizzeria likes to pour on the cheese; Abo's has the sturdiest crust.
Open-and-shut cases: Don't head to Canino's Trattoria (2390 South Downing) if you have a hankering for Italian fare -- not until the place straightens out a few bookkeeping problems, at least. A sign recently appeared on the eatery's door notifying would-be diners that the business has been seized for non-payment of taxes (and this despite the fact that it was packed day and night).
Closed for good is Saffron (6600 South Quebec Street), my favorite choice for upscale Middle Eastern fare. Its former space is now occupied by Pesce Fresco, a "Mediterranean bistro and wine bar," according to owners Merrilee and Joel Diner, a husband-and-wife team that graduated from DU together.
Joel ran Colorado Wine Brokers and its later version, Platinum Beverage, until last month, when the aptly named Diners decided to buy Saffron -- space, name, rights to recipes and all. Then they proceeded to redesign the room to reflect a more "Old World, Mediterranean and Italian sort of place," Merrilee says, and as the focus became more Mediterranean, Saffron's old chef decided to move on (no word on where he's going). Still, the couple is toying with the idea of keeping some of Saffron's more popular dishes on Pesce Fresco's menu. "Maybe we'll wait and see if customers are really missing a particular dish," Merrilee says.
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Helping create that menu is new chef Dale Filson Jr., who has cooked for Sfuzzi, Bella Ristorante, the Cheesecake Factory and Poppies. "You have to check out Dale's Gorgonzola cheesecake," Merrilee says. "It's our signature item, and it's quite unusual." You can check it out at lunch on weekdays and dinner every day but Sunday, when the restaurant is closed altogether.
Coffee clash: A recent visit to Kaladi Brothers Coffee Company (1739 East Evans Avenue) had us stewing in our own coffee juices. We watched incredulously as, instead of taking our order, one of the owners and the sole employee hung around the counter chatting with some buddies who'd dropped in to say hi. And we were the only paying customers -- make that would-be paying customers -- in the place. Noticing that we were getting a little steamed, the employee asked what we wanted, whipped up our two coffees and brought them to the table. "I am so sorry," she said. "These are on the house." Good move -- but not good enough to get me back there in a hurry.