You've probably seen tabletop tablet menus and payment systems at Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse (if you're the sort of person who eats at either of those), but up until now, the trend hasn't hit smaller Denver restaurants. But the brand-new DC Pie Co., at 2223 East Colfax Avenue, is betting that customers will love the ability to order and pay when ready, rather than waiting for a server.
DC Pie Co. just took over the space previously occupied by Brik on York, after a redesign of the interior space that included moving the bar from the west wall to the center of the dining room and turning a stage area (that had been used for local bands and open-mic nights) into more seating. At Brik, a wood-burning pizza oven was the focal point of the open kitchen, so it seems natural that a new pizzeria would take over. But co-owner Mary Zayaruzny explains that she and business partner Dominic Cavagnuolo actually installed a new pizza oven, one with gas flames and a rotating floor rather than the traditional but temperamental Italian oven of the previous tenant.
Denver has welcomed nearly every type of regional pizza invasion, with Detroit, Chicago, New York and Neapolitan pizzas all gaining a foothold. But DC Pie Co. isn't bringing in an obscure style from the District of Columbia; the "DC" in the name stands for Dominic Cavagnuolo, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, so the pies are reminiscent of his favorite childhood pizza joints. This is the first Denver effort for Cavagnuolo and Zayaruzny; the former also runs Lucali in Miami Beach, while the latter has opened restaurants all over the world, including in Moscow, New York City and Miami.
Thankfully for the technologically challenged, the restaurant keeps the menu simple, with only a handful of toppings available for pizzas (which come in one size), several baked appetizers, some entree-sized salads — like a generous kale Caesar — and a few other appetizers. There's only one meat topping (pepperoni), and most of the appetizers are simply variations on ingredients used in several different ways. You can get a plate of roasted artichoke hearts, for example, topped with red sauce, Parmesan, ricotta and fresh basil, or you can get most of those ingredients on your pizza. Hefty four-ounce meatballs and oven-roasted chicken wings in a spicy-sweet sauce can be had for those in need of more meat, or you can get a plate of pepperoni chips, which are nothing more than pepperoni fried to a crisp and served in a pile — a plain but surprisingly effective appetizer best shared with several people.
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Desserts are equally plain but satisfying. The Nutella pie is nothing more than the house pizza crust slathered in Nutella, and the egg cream will perplex Midwesterners (no egg, no cream) while pleasing New York transplants, since the owners went the extra step of installing a special soda dispenser to make the East Coast diner favorite.
Back to those tabletop tablets; each table comes equipped with a recessed tablet that pops up when you press and click the cover. You can place your dinner order (or lunch, on the weekends) all at once, or a little at a time, adding drinks when you need another round or dessert at the end. If you'd rather not handle your own ordering, you can also chat with a server. When it comes time to pay, DC Pie Co. is a cash-free establishment, so you can use the tablet to pay with a card or, again, let a server take care of it.
Zayaruzny says this is the first restaurant she and Cavagnuolo have opened using the customer-operated POS system, and it took some doing; they had to start from scratch because most software packages are designed with much larger companies in mind. And while the system allows DC Pie Co. to run with a smaller staff, there are still enough employees in the house to make sure that every table is attended to. The investment in the system combined with the streamlined menu make the pizzeria a clear candidate as a prototype for future expansion.
DC Pie Co. is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (with weekday lunches planned for next spring). Call 303-537-4240 or visit the DC Pie Co. website for more information.