The Ultimate Guide to the Best Pizza in Denver | Westword

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Pizza in Denver

Round, square, thick, thin or built on a sourdough crust, the local pizza scene is thriving.
Blue Pan, a favorite for Detroit-style pies, recently added a third location in Golden.
Blue Pan, a favorite for Detroit-style pies, recently added a third location in Golden. Ethan Rosenfeld/@Ethanwithyoureyes
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In social media comments and Reddit threads, there's a boisterous contingent of people who wholeheartedly believe that pizza in Denver sucks.

Those people are wrong. Forget the so-called "Colorado-style" pies that only Beau Jo's peddles: Over the last few years, the Mile High's pizza scene has evolved in delicious ways. Now a hot spot for local interpretations of regional pizza styles from across the country, Denver has also slowly and quietly developed its own signature trend: sourdough, or naturally leavened, crust topped with seasonal and local ingredients that go beyond the basic pepperoni and sausage.

While some classic, old-school spots like Carl's and Frank the Pizza King continue to serve nostalgic pies that hark to Denver's pizza past, many of the best options around are much, much newer.

There are so many pizza places we love at the moment, we've ditched our "ten best" list for this more comprehensive roster of spots we recommend, broken down by style — though many places dabble in a variety of takes. Here's our ultimate guide to the best pizza in Denver right now:
It's a short stumble from Cervantes' to Famous Original J's, which has a slice window that faces the 715 Club patio.
Molly Martin

New York Style/Pizza by the Slice

While this was once the most ubiquitous style of pizza in most of the U.S., period, others have risen in popularity. But when you're simply craving straightforward "pizza," it's likely that these large, often foldable slices are what you're envisioning.

Our favorite in this category is Famous Original J's (715 East 26th Avenue), a walk-up window in Five Points where Rosenberg's owner Joshua Pollack has taken his passion for East Coast favorites and applied it to pies that deliver pure pizza pleasure, available whole or by the slice. We only wish there were windows like this all around the city.

Other recommendations:
  • Fat Sully's (multiple locations), where the giant pies and slices have been a go-to since 2008. Bonus: Fat Sully's recently added the option to get white pizza by the slice.
  • The PZA (1501 East Colfax Avenue), a spot opened by Jake Rothey in May 2022 where you can get top-notch, East Coast-style pies and slices from a space that's connected to gay sports bar Tight End. 
  • SliceWorks (multiple locations), a local chain founded by a family from Long Island in 2012 that's a dependable stop for an affordable, quick slice with a wide variety of toppings and rotating specials.
  • Big Bill's (8243 South Holly Street, Centennial), which has been open since 1995 and offers a classic pizza-joint experience complete with sports memorabilia all over the walls and ice-cold Yoo-hoo.
  • Dough Counter (2466 South Colorado Boulevard), a fast-casual joint from the family behind Marco's Coal Fired that opened in 2023.
a rectangular pepperoni pizza
Red Tops Rendezvous is a newer option for Detroit-style pizza in Denver.
Molly Martin

Detroit-Style Pizza

Before 2015, these thick, rectangular, square-cut pies with carmelized, cheesy edges were a pizza style you couldn't find in Denver. Detroit-based chain Jet's was the first to bring it to the Mile High, and it has continued to expand in Colorado since, offering a budget-friendly version of the style. But it was another 2015 debut that's become synonymous with Detroit pies locally.

Blue Pan, which has locations in West Highland and Congress Park, as well as a new outpost in Golden, has been at the forefront of the "best pizza" conversation since it opened. With careful attention paid to both technique and high-quality ingredients, it remains the crowd favorite by far.

Other recommendations:
  • Red Tops Rendezvous (2917 West 25th Avenue), which was opened by the Culinary Creative Group in 2023, is an all-out ode to the Motor City serving pies with red sauce on top (hence the name).
  • Rock City Ice & Pie (1386 US-287, Broomfield), a carry-out-only joint founded by chef Jason Dascoli out of his home in 2020 that also serves Italian water ice.
  • Hops & Pie (3920 Tennyson Street), where the sourdough spin on Detroit pizza is just $7 for a cheese on Thursdays.
click to enlarge a round, square-cut cheese and sausage pizza
Da Sauce does tavern-style pies right.
Molly Martin

Chicago/Midwest Tavern-Style Pizza

This is the trendy regional pizza of the moment. Cracker-thin and cut into what's known as party squares, this pie is what people in Chicagoland actually eat on a regular basis — despite the fact that deep dish got top billing for years. The number of places to get tavern-style pies in Denver keeps growing — and soon there will be one more, as Kevin Morrison is swapping out the original location of Tacos Tequila Whiskey with Rolling Pin Pizza.

But you don't have to wait to try our number-one tavern-style pick. Da Sauce was opened at 2907 Huron Street, near Coors Field, by husband-and-wife team John and Jandee Craig last April. The menu includes housemade ice cream and other Midwest favorites like Italian beef sandwiches, but its pies are the draw. They're the ideal balance of crispy crust, flavorful sauce and just the right amount of cheese (especially if you like extra cheese and order it while Jandee is working).

Other recommendations:
  • Grabowski's (13795 Jewell Avenue, Lakewood) from Jared Leonard, the owner of AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q, who's from Chicago and moved his pizza place from the Source to Lakewood in 2023.
  • Wyman's #5 (2033 East 13th Avenue), a low-key bar in the Congress Park neighborhood.
  • Jimano's (2950 South Broadway), an Illinois-born chain with one Denver location that's operated by franchisee Robert Meason, who has plans to open a second outpost in the metro area.
  • Blue Pan, which — despite being known for its Detroit-style pies — also makes a stellar tavern-style version. Opt for the sausage and peppers, which comes with a side of giardiniera.
click to enlarge a rectangular pizza with ricotta on top next to a round white pizza
White Pie now serves Sicilian pizza along with its New Haven-inspired pies.
Molly Martin

Sicilian Pizza

Similar to Detroit-style, Sicilian is a thicker, rectangular pie — but the sauce goes on before the toppings and cheese. Our current go-to is a place that is known for something very different.

White Pie in Uptown is a passion project from brothers Kristopher and Jason Wallenta, who were raised on oblong New Haven-style pies. It was our 2023 Best of Denver pick for Best Pizzeria for a variety of reasons; in the last year, it's added wood-fired Sicilian pizzas to its full-time lineup. With an airy, foccacia-like base and some options with fun additions like the Blondie, which has everything seasoning coating the crust, these pies are as hard to categorize as they are delicious.

Other recommendations:
  • Dough Counter, which offers Sicilian pies with some non-traditional toppings like Vodka Chicken Parm and the burger-inspired Big Mac.
  • Redeemer Pizza (2705 Larimer Street), the RiNo sister restaurant to Dio Mio that offers naturally leavened Sicilian slices of cheese or spicy pepperoni from the window inside its alley entrance.
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Cart-Driver's pies have the perfect char.
Oh Hey Creative

Wood-Fired/Neapolitan Pizza

The OG pizza style from Italy remains the gold standard for many — it even comes with strict rules that a restaurant must follow to be certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. But some local spots have truly made Neapolitan pies their own, particularly Cart-Driver.

Since opening in RiNo in 2014, it has been held in high esteem by diners and other pizza place owners for its bubbly, perfectly charred crust. The concise menu includes just a handful of options for pie topping combos, including the basic Daisy, its take on the Margherita, and seasonal specials that usually highlight local produce. Plus, you can pair your pizza here with oysters and tinned fish. While its LoHi location is currently closed for renovations, it is expected to reopen soon.

Other recommendations:
  • Marco's Coal Fired (2129 Larimer Street and 10111 Inverness Main Street in Englewood), which has been in business since 2008 and has the approval of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.
  • White Pie, where the Mario Acunto wood-fired oven was shipped directly from Italy for its New Haven-inspired pizzas.
  • Kaos Pizzeria (1439 South Pearl Street), a neighborhood favorite that dishes out everything from pineapple and cream cheese to chicken and pesto on its pies.
  • Benzina (4839 East Colfax Avenue), an upscale restaurant where pizza, including a beloved clam pie, is just one of the reasons to visit.
  • Bar Dough (2227 West 32nd Avenue), another spot from the Culinary Creative group that's also one of our favorite Italian restaurants in town.
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Joy Hill's pies are made on a sourdough crust.
Molly Martin

Sourdough Pizza

Newer Denver pizza hot spots have embraced sourdough — also known as naturally leavened — as the next big thing in pizza crusts. Depending on the method used, the amount of actual sourdough tang varies. But one thing all of these pies have in common is that they are more easily digestible, making it easier to enjoy a few slices without needing a nap after.

Our top choice for a sourdough-crust pie is Joy Hill, which opened on South Broadway in 2020. Its wood-fired pies are topped with thoughtful combinations like arugula pesto and a variety of veggies on the That 70's Pie, and local bison chorizo with housemade green chile ranch on the Hunter. We also love that this place has a rooftop patio with mountain views and a killer cocktail and wine program.

Other recommendations:
  • Hops & Pie (3920 Tennyson Street), the craft beer bar that switched to sourdough for all of its pizza styles — Detroit, New York and Sicilian — in 2022.
  • Redeemer Pizza (2705 Larimer Street), which makes both its Sicilian and "New York 2.0"-style pies with naturally leavened dough that has a very subtle sour note — so subtle you may not even notice it.
  • The Greenwich (3258 Larimer Street), a New York-inspired eatery that treats pizza like more of a course within a meal than the main event, though you could make a whole meal of its pies.
click to enlarge person in a pink sweatshirt holding a pizza and eating a slice
Funky Flame serves round and Detroit-style pies.
Funky Flame/Instagram

Pizza From Top Bakeries

One of our favorite pizza trends builds on another culinary trend in Denver: the booming bakery scene. Since 2020, many cottage-food pop-ups have turned into full-fledged brick-and-mortar businesses, and as a result, there are a whole lot of impressive baked goods to be found in the Mile High right now.

Some of these spots are also cranking out pizza. While it may not be the main draw at most, it's a damn good bonus. Funky Flame started by slinging loaves of sourdough before adding wood-fired pizza to its rotation. Now it's a staple at its new Northside location, which hosts a pizza party every Friday evening and has Detroit-style slices on its regular menu.

Other recommendations:
  • Good Bread (1515 Madison Street) — keep an eye on its Instagram to find out when its wood-fired pies are available.
  • Get Right's (6985 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge), which shares its rolling menu on Instagram, including its ever-changing pizza options.
click to enlarge someone pulling a pizza out of an oven
Justin Freeman cooking in the portable pizza oven that Monarch will use for pop-ups as it looks for a permanent space.
Shawn Campbell

Pizza Pop-Ups and Food Trucks

Beyond brick-and-mortars, Denver has a thriving pop-up and food truck scene. Many of these creative entrepreneurs are dishing out pizza, but you have to plan a bit to enjoy them.

One new pop-up on the scene comes from the former chef at the Greenwich, Justin Freeman, who is currently the executive chef at vegan eatery Somebody People. He's also working toward opening his own restaurant, slowly introducing the concept through one-off events under the name Monarch. Pizza is just one part of his future vision, but it's certainly a highlight. Follow it @monarchdenver for the chance to give it a try.

Other recommendations:
  • Joey Parm's, which you can find on the front porch at Beacon in RiNo from 8:30 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
  • Get Sauced, which does occasional drops of Detroit-style and round pies.
  • Simply Pizza, a food truck that launched nearly a decade ago.
  • Outside Pizza, which serves out of a retro camper.
  • High Society Pizza, a food truck with plans to open its first brick-and-mortar soon.
click to enlarge a slice of pizza with a garlic knot crust
The pizzas at Mora's are all vegan.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Pizza

At its core, pizza is sauce, dough and cheese, but that doesn't mean that people with dietary restrictions can't enjoy it. Most pizzerias these days offer vegan cheese substitutes and/or gluten-free crust options, usually for an upcharge.

Some dairy, meat and gluten-free pies defy all dietary limitations. For super-creative, fully vegan pizza, check out Mora's, which gained a big following on social media and now operates at 1510 Clarkson Street. Its current menu and hours are posted regularly on Instagram.

The reigning favorite for gluten-free pies is Marco's Coal Fired, which also developed a gluten-free version of Sicilian pizza for its sister restaurant, Dough Counter.
click to enlarge
Rosalee's is more than worth the drive to Longmont.
Molly Martin

Where to Find Pizza Outside of Denver

Pizza is one of those foods where proximity counts — your favorite is often the one closest to you. But for the right reasons, true fans will go out of their way to get their hands on a certain pie. If you're up for a pizza adventure, here are some worth the drive:

  • Pizzeria Alberico, which serves wood-fired Neapolitan pies from the Frasca group.
  • Basta, an upscale restaurant from the Id Est Hospitality group that's one of the Bib Gourmand picks in Colorado's first Michelin Guide.
  • Barchetta, a spot with retro vibes and a chef/co-owner who formerly worked at the original Pizzeria Locale, Basta and the Wolf's Tailor.
  • Audrey Jane's Pizza Garage, a counter-service, New York-style pizzeria with a big neighborhood following.
  • New Yorkese, a stall inside Avanti from Steve Redzikowski, the owner of Oak at Fourteenth, Brider and Bellota.
  • Rosealee's Pizzeria, a friendly, decade-old joint that's owned by husband-and-wife team Amy and James Ross and dishes out round pies and thicker, Sicilian-like squares.
  • Urban Field Pizza & Market, which serves award-winning artisanal pies and is planning an expansion to Loveland.
  • Virgilio's Pizzeria & Wine Bar, which was founded by Italian-born Virgilio Urbano in Lakewood in 2005 and still serves brick-oven pies in a former Johnny Carino's space.
Is your favorite pizza place missing from the guide? Email us at [email protected].
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