Best Pizza -- By the Slice 2002 | Papa Keno's | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Here's one place where bigger is better, because one piece of Papa Keno's pie could be enough to satisfy. Then again, it's hard to get enough of this pizza's crispy crust, gooey cheese and sweet sauce enhanced by plenty of oregano. The super-casual Papa Keno's is an ideal drop-in spot -- especially judging by the number of customers from the nearby CU Health Sciences Center; a hot, drippy triangle should be in your hands within a matter of minutes. As advertised, this slice is as big as your face -- and we're ready to do a little face time at Papa's anytime.
Wedge Pizza Co., a spacious, spanking-clean new pizzeria, makes pies that are a work of art, with cheese swirled around the thin, hand-tossed crust and a lot of thick, sweet sauce. But our favorite way to get a Wedge is as a calzone, with the crust folded over our choice of toppings, then slicked with olive oil and thrown back into the oven until it turns into a tidy package that's crunchy on the outside, cheese-oozing on the inside. The standard cheese calzone is far from standard, with mozzarella, ricotta and fresh basil melding into a blissful goo. But we like to throw in artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes for extra flavor. Now, pass the sauce, please.
Lechuga's is such an authentic red-sauce joint, you expect to see Frank and the boys lounging around a table covered with a red-checked cloth, sharing a laugh and a bottle of Chianti. But if Ol' Blue Eyes were still with us, he'd probably get right in line with everyone else, peering into the heated display case next to the cash register, gazing in amazement at the stacks of dough-wrapped meat sitting there -- and drooling. "Devils" have been a Lechuga's tradition from the start, and with good reason. The kitchen takes good-quality Italian meats -- mild sausage, spicy sausage and big, fat meatballs -- and wraps them in sweet dough before baking them into giant puffballs. Not so hungry? Tell 'em the "mini devil" made you do it.
Three Sons is another north Denver landmark, an Italian eatery whose slick, busy dining room is decorated with Roman busts and softly colored lights. The fried chicken is one of the specialties here; if you can't resist ordering it, you'll still want to add a side of spaghetti. Even a side here is a hefty helping, a mound of perfectly cooked noodles blanketed by a gravy-like red sauce. We go all the way, though, because that red possesses an addictive flavor that hints of vegetables and herbs, puréed into a thick, ruddy consistency that holds to the pasta like an Italian mama to her babies. Don't forget to splurge for a meatball.
Kristin Pazulski
If a squat green bottle covered with straw is your only Chianti experience, it's time to take a trip to Tuscany. And you won't need to go any farther than 17th Street, to Panzano, a lovely restaurant named after a village in the Chianti Classico region of Italy. Yes, in that country, Chianti is a classic. In this country, it's a joke, one of the stereotyped trappings of an Italian restaurant straight out of Disney's Lady and the Tramp. But in reality, Chianti is a lush, rich wine, capable of holding its own against the likes of Montepulciano and Barolo. And in celebrating its namesake area, Panzano offers nearly three dozen Chiantis for in-the-know diners, including the esteemed Fontodi and La Massa, all picked by sommelier Scott Tallman. Of course, every one of those wines is perfetto with chef Jennifer Jasinkski's superb fare.
Looking for the perfect bottle of wine? Reserve some time at Reservelist, an astounding collection of small-batch, hard-to-find wines from around the world. Owner Chris Farnum, a sommelier well on his way to earning his master certification, has built a store that is literally a wine cellar, temperature-controlled and humidity-injected, where the wines are arranged by locale, variety and order of consumption, from aperitif to digestif. Farnum's philosophy is to find wines that are going places, bottles from new, exciting vineyards that are destined to produce the next big thing, but not necessarily at the next big price. Farnum will offer a $200 bottle if it's a great bottle, but more often he's selling things like Sineann's Zinfandel, a Washington State wine that costs $34 a bottle even though only seventy cases are made each year, or the 1999 Mas Doix from Spain, a $60 wine that tastes like $300. And when price is really an issue, Reservelist offers a rotating roster of twenty wines each under $20. But here's the real reason to pop the cork: This groovy store is simply a cool place to visit, with a lounge and tiny coffee bar out front where patrons can research wines over a handy computer or using a small library of wine books. We have no reservations about this one.
Tired of cooler-than-thou wine stores? Try Corks, a warm, very drinker-friendly store with a completely down-to-earth approach. Owners Glenn Ehrlich and Pam Glynn, former advertising folks who decided one day that it would be neat to own a wine shop, have assembled around 300 wines, 90 percent of which cost less than $15 a bottle. The shop is divided into categories that describe the body of the grapes within and make it easier to find what you like: "Sensuous" means medium-bodied reds, "lush" means full-bodied whites. And wine novices and veteran winos alike will appreciate the fact that next to each bin is a placard explaining the characteristics of the wine and offering comments from wine writers. Ehrlich and Glynn subscribe to wine magazines from around the globe and have a database of about 16,000 wines they think are worth tracking down, and they're bringing them to Denver as fast as they can. Uncork this baby and enjoy.

Restaurants looking to make their wine lists more accessible to diners should take a page from the Fourth Story and offer a variety of grapes and styles from a variety of locations, with enough rarities thrown in here and there to keep more serious wine enthusiasts interested. (No need to try to impress people with a 300-page roster that would take six mealtimes to read, let alone comprehend.) Above all, have fun, as the Fourth Story does with its Tasting Challenge: flights of wine, each with three two-ounce samplings, designed to give diners the opportunity to discern differences and find favorites. Put it all together, and it's no wonder the Fourth Story's wine list is a perennial bestseller.

Despite its name, the Wine Company carries as much great beer as it does wine. And while many beer vendors slap the goods on the shelves and leave it to the customers to figure out what to drink, the staff here drinks -- and thinks about -- its beery inventory. As a result, burgeoning beer geeks can get great advice with their selections, all of which are kept in top condition.
Drinkers wanting the latest buzz get their kicks with the honey wines made by David Myers at his Redstone Meadery. Once an at-home mead maker, Myers has turned his avocation into a vocation. His not-too-sweet bottled and draft meads are making the elixir accessible to the masses while turning Myers into the area's newest brewing revolutionary. Beowulf would be proud.

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