Second Helpings

Any way you slice it, Tonti's makes good pizza

Last week, I got stuck in three "best pizza in blahblahblah" discussions. One was a drunken confession. One was a declarative statement: If I didn't agree that this was the best pizza ever made, I was some kind of idiot. And one was almost a fistfight over thin-crust-versus-sorta-thin-crust, an angry, finger-pointing back-and-forth that missed violence only by the narrowest of margins.

The declaration of pizza supremacy came from this paper's publisher, and I won't tell you which pizza he loved, because I haven't tried it, and he may well turn out to be the idiot. The drunk was my friend Kurt, calling from Buffalo, letting me know that — after years away — he had once again become a convert to La Nova Pizza in Buffalo. Then he told me how much he loved me and fell down in the wet grass, giggling like a ten-year-old rolling down a hill. The near-fight was in an alley downtown, me and a fan squaring off over crust thickness and cheese density and calling each other lots of really nasty names while we smoked and drank and paced like two duelists preening before the final, fateful shot.

All of which got me thinking about my favorite pizza, and because I am Irish and prone to such things, that got me thinking about the great pizza places that have come and gone. The one I really miss? Tonti's on Chambers Road in Aurora, which used to be my go-to pizzeria for everything from stromboli to slices, winner of two awards in the Best of Denver 2005. But then, for no good reason, the quality fell off precipitously (burnt crusts, half-baked calzones) and within the year, it was closed. I was sad only because I remembered it when it was great.

Fortunately, there are two other Tonti's locations. Unfortunately, one is in Elizabeth and the other in Parker — both a haul just for a slice. Even a really, really good slice. But then Laura started traveling to Parker on a regular basis and bringing home dinner from Tonti's.

Tonti's does not do a standard New York thin. The crust has been allowed to rise slightly, the bone swelling to at least a blistered inch high. The sauce is sweet, East Coast-style, and daubed on thickly. And the cheese? It's rare to find a pie where the cheese really does stretch, flow and cling like mozzarella is supposed to, but Tonti's does: The cheese is a delicious jacket melted thick and unevenly across the slightly chewy crust. Topped with a shake of parmesan cheese, this pie is a revelation — better even than the best pies done by the Aurora Tonti's when it was at the top of its game. A pie worth fighting for.

And absolutely worth the drive.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan