Technically, what A La Tomate serves isn't even a pizza. It's a tarte à la tomate -- a golden-brown, braided, buttery, pastry-shell tart filled with pizza-like toppings that comes straight from the cafes of Provence to Denver's 17th Avenue. At first bite, the pie tastes...weird. The sauce is keyed to French tastes, kicked up with a strong dose of herbes de Provence, and the crust seems to be made from crushed-up Keebler butter crackers. But once you get past the initial shock of this being unlike any other pizza you've tasted, you quickly realize that different is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's a pretty good thing, especially when the kitchen brings all the skills of a pro pastry department to the construction of each shell.

Until you've tasted what a French-trained, James Beard Award-nominated executive chef can do once he decides to open a dream neighborhood pizza place, you really haven't tasted pizza's potential. But since the debut of the Oven, Mark Tarbell's wood-fired pie joint in Belmar, now you can. Here, every pizza is hand-tossed; topped with the best organic, locally produced and artisan ingredients Tarbell can find; draped with his signature homemade mozzarella (made fresh all day in the Oven's kitchen) and smoked ricotta cheese; and cooked in one of two massive wood-fired ovens that Tarbell himself designed. The result is a lightly sauced pie, subtly woody in the crust. These aren't just pizzas, they're works of art -- true masterpizzas.

Until you've tasted what a French-trained, James Beard Award-nominated executive chef can do once he decides to open a dream neighborhood pizza place, you really haven't tasted pizza's potential. But since the debut of the Oven, Mark Tarbell's wood-fired pie joint in Belmar, now you can. Here, every pizza is hand-tossed; topped with the best organic, locally produced and artisan ingredients Tarbell can find; draped with his signature homemade mozzarella (made fresh all day in the Oven's kitchen) and smoked ricotta cheese; and cooked in one of two massive wood-fired ovens that Tarbell himself designed. The result is a lightly sauced pie, subtly woody in the crust. These aren't just pizzas, they're works of art -- true masterpizzas.

Famous Pizza has a vibe that lets you know you've come to the right place. It could be the abraded tile, the wobbly tables, the decor that's half Greek diner, half God knows what -- but there's definitely something in the collision between look, neighborhood and attitude that makes Famous the best spot for feeding that late-night jones for thin-crust perfection. The slices here are New York-style -- meaning thin crust, small bone and greasy -- and while they're not the absolute best in town, they're available until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday for the walk-in trade. And for that, Famous is rightly famous.


Famous Pizza
Mark Antonation
Famous Pizza has a vibe that lets you know you've come to the right place. It could be the abraded tile, the wobbly tables, the decor that's half Greek diner, half God knows what -- but there's definitely something in the collision between look, neighborhood and attitude that makes Famous the best spot for feeding that late-night jones for thin-crust perfection. The slices here are New York-style -- meaning thin crust, small bone and greasy -- and while they're not the absolute best in town, they're available until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday for the walk-in trade. And for that, Famous is rightly famous.

A great pizza folded in half is a great calzone. And what's better than a great calzone? A great stromboli -- essentially a pizza that's been involved in a high-speed collision with a fast-moving Italian sandwich, with the resulting mess folded up like a calzone and baked. Tonti's stromboli is a huge pocket of baked pizza dough, stuffed with deli meats and cheeses (including a good dose of mozzarella), then served with a side of excellent red sauce. Eating one isn't quite as convenient as eating a sandwich or a slice -- you'll need a knife, fork and big boy's appetite just to get through half -- but it's worth the extra effort.


A great pizza folded in half is a great calzone. And what's better than a great calzone? A great stromboli -- essentially a pizza that's been involved in a high-speed collision with a fast-moving Italian sandwich, with the resulting mess folded up like a calzone and baked. Tonti's stromboli is a huge pocket of baked pizza dough, stuffed with deli meats and cheeses (including a good dose of mozzarella), then served with a side of excellent red sauce. Eating one isn't quite as convenient as eating a sandwich or a slice -- you'll need a knife, fork and big boy's appetite just to get through half -- but it's worth the extra effort.

While Armando's pies are outstanding, particularly the deep-dish spinach Sicilian, this venerable pizzeria deserves a prize for another portion of its menu: the pastas. The kitchen does just about every classic neighborhood Italian starch you can think of, including admirable gnocchi, fat little ravioli, and a fresh capellini pomodoro with garlic, capers, white wine and cherry tomatoes. There's also an excellent chicken Florentine, and a great Alfredo to pour over just about anything. If you're torn between all the choices, Armando's offers several mezzo e mezzo plates that should settle just about any split decision.


While Armando's pies are outstanding, particularly the deep-dish spinach Sicilian, this venerable pizzeria deserves a prize for another portion of its menu: the pastas. The kitchen does just about every classic neighborhood Italian starch you can think of, including admirable gnocchi, fat little ravioli, and a fresh capellini pomodoro with garlic, capers, white wine and cherry tomatoes. There's also an excellent chicken Florentine, and a great Alfredo to pour over just about anything. If you're torn between all the choices, Armando's offers several mezzo e mezzo plates that should settle just about any split decision.

Although Parisi's relocated and expanded restaurant is wonderful, it's the fantastic Italian deli that gets us through the door. Italian deli meats and whole frozen Muscovy ducks, as well as fresh-made mozzarella, prepped-to-cook entrees, sides and frozen stocks and sauces from Parisi's own kitchen are enough to make us love this place beyond all reason and good sense. But there are also shelves full of dry stock -- imported Italian specialties, raw tomato pastes, artisan oils -- that have everything you could possibly need for a proper Saint Joseph's Day feast or just a family dinner straight out of GoodFellas. The friendly staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the most obscure culinary matters, and they never let you leave before you're loaded down with more great Italian stuff than you could ever use.


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