My standard for Denver's definitive slice has always been Anthony's, truly the closest you'll come to East Coast pizza in this Western town. The $1.75 slice always has a delectable slick of cheese on top, it's the perfect size for folding in half, and as you bend over to eat it, saucy grease drips onto the sidewalk.
Anthony's six metro locations all do their pizza slightly differently, though. My favorite is the one at 1628 East Evans Avenue, where the sauce is on the sweet side and the crust comes out extra crispy. And on Monday nights, the Evans store serves slices by the buck, with a draft going for a dollar, too.
For many longtime Denverites -- especially those who came here seeking fame and fortune (and in the meantime needed a cheap meal) -- the slice of choice was found at Famous Pizza. Since the original opened in 1975 at 98 South Broadway, two more outlets were added, at 2035 South Broadway and 1528 East Colfax Avenue. Owner Gus Mavrocefalos sold the East Colfax spot a few years ago, however, and now disavows any connection between the original and its severed sibling.
I visited both the original Famous Pizza and the offshoot on East Colfax and found little difference between their slices -- or, for that matter, little difference between their divey, '70s-style decor and people-watching mix of bums and yuppie customers. Famous's slice ($1.40 plain) features a sweet, crunchy crust, an herb-heavy, tomatoey sauce, and excellent toppings. "You get this," an employee said as an artichoke-and-Roma-tomato pie came out of the oven, and we were happy to oblige.
At Famous, the story's all in the eating. When I called to learn more of the chain's history, all I got was an emphatic string of Greek shouted loud enough for me to hear over the phone. "He doesn't want to be in the paper," a Famous worker said before hanging up.
To the letter: It's fortunate that most restaurant meals speak for themselves, because it's often difficult getting information out of employees, much less getting those employees to send you to their bosses. In this week's Letters section, reader Jack Henry Kunin takes me to task for misspelling the names of Michael and Marcy Schreiber, owners of East Side Kosher Deli (499 South Elm Street), which I reviewed two weeks ago ("Oy Vey!" November 15).
I'd chatted with East Side's former owners, Mel and Irma Weiss, numerous times when I shopped regularly at the deli's old location a half-dozen years ago. But when I called to talk to the current owners about East Side's massive new home, an employee told me that they weren't interested in speaking with me, then gave me the wrong spelling of their name. My apologies for passing on the error.
As for Kunin's assertion that the restaurant has "an old-world ambience, personable service and excellent American, Eastern European Jewish and Mexican cuisine," all I can say is, I'm glad he's the art appraiser and I'm the restaurant reviewer.
I raved about Cuba Cuba (1173 Delaware Street) last month ("To Havana and Have Not," October 25), and a few readers sent along their reviews of that review, too. Deborah Méndez-Wilson, who for ten years lived in the Caribbean where, she says, "many of the dishes, spices, sofritos, drinks, etc." are similar to those found in Cuba, also liked the restaurant. But she offered two complaints: The portions were too small, and a restaurant can't really qualify as Cuban without Cuban music.
Caribbean food and Cuban food are similar in the same way Chinese and Vietnamese food are similar: They share many of the same ingredients and offer some of the same preparations, but the two cuisines are distinctly different. And Cuba Cuba's food tasted just like the real thing, which I was lucky enough to enjoy -- often -- in Little Havana when I lived a few hours' drive from Miami. I didn't have a problem with the normal-sized portions served at Cuba Cuba. (Have you heard from the surgeon general lately about how we eat way too much damned food when we eat out, and that's why we're such a nation of fat you-know-whats?) And on both of my visits, the Cuban music was so loud and the place so raucous, I wondered if there was a party going on (in fact, on one occasion, there was).
Lew Bradford was more critical. Having been to the "real Cuba," he wrote, he found Cuba Cuba's food "unseasoned, dry, flavorless and overpriced." Kitchens have bad nights now and then; he should give the restaurant another try. I dine at a place at least twice before I review it; if both experiences are bad, I hit it a third time. Since I reviewed Cuba Cuba, I've been back to the restaurant on my own dime, and that dinner was great, too.
As for Bradford's statement that "they must have known you were coming," I reiterate -- for the millionth time -- that restaurants never know when I'm coming. They find out that I've been there only when I call to interview the owner after my reviewing visits are done. Just ask the staff at East Side Kosher Deli...if they'll take your call.
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