White Pie counts itself among the restaurants on the ever-expanding list along East 17th Avenue, some long-established, others up and coming. Along with next-door neighbor Humboldt Farm Fish Wine, that list, a refreshing change from RiNo and downtown, includes the newish Shanty Supper Club and Smokehouse17 (which calls the frequently changing spot at 1618 East 17th home); standbys like the Thin Man, the Avenue Grill and Watercourse Foods; and many fine in-betweeners such as Steuben’s, Beast + Bottle and Vine Street Pub. As an upscale and fashionable wood-fired-pizza locale, White Pie stands out in a neighborhood low on pizza options (Patxi’s across the street does Chicago-style, and therefore counts as an entirely different food group) — but has plenty of happy hour competition.
Happy hour at White Pie begins with one question: What is happy hour at a pizza joint without a pizza deal? The fact that I cannot order a discounted daily slice or happy hour pizza special is curious and a little irksome. But White Pie has never sold pizza by the slice, and ordering a whole pizza feels contrary to the true meaning of happy hour as I understand it. At least the short slate of happy hour specials includes a cheesy bread that's almost a pizza — baked dough in a round, flat format coated in cheese — but I wanted to be able to just add sauce and toppings.
But let's start with what we've got. White Pie’s afternoon happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and given that there's often a wait for dinner service, it was a pleasant surprise to find that, at 5:45 p.m. on a Tuesday, the place was uncrowded, almost peaceful. The dark entryway set back from the sidewalk can be an easy miss if you’re not familiar with the spot or neighborhood, so warn your less perceptive friends in advance. And fair warning: Parking is a bitch. There’s no other way to put it. Even bike parking is a bit bitchy, with streetside sign poles as the best nearby option. Or if you have $7 to spare, you can take advantage of the valet in front of Humboldt.
Low lighting, exposed brick and an industrial-chic open layout make the space inviting and low-pressure for couples, and community tables make things easy for bigger groups of friends to sit together. Single folks can post up at the bar and have built-in entertainment as the pizzaiolo deftly stretches dough and maintains a colossal wood-fired oven. The hefty wooden bar stools, and those stationed at the marble counters in the restaurant’s interior, are backless and hard, giving you a reason to snag the more comfortable perimeter seating.
I arrived with a companion just in time to claim a corner seat, and we attempted to order an extra happy hour beverage for our late third. The server turned us down, which is reasonable (no drink without an ID is the standard these days), but sadly meant that we weren't able to sneak in an extra drink before happy hour cutoff. At $7, the tart-sweet Negroni is a pretty good deal, though because it's served in a bistro tumbler similar to those at Cart-Driver, I was reminded of the other pizzeria's “Messed Up” Negroni at $2 less. The White Pie lager, made by Station 26, goes down easy, but is the only beer on the happy hour menu and rings in at $5.
The happy hour menu comprises five items: arancini ($3), five-cheese bread ($7), fried calamari ($8), charcuterie ($9) and roasted cauliflower with romesco ($5). We ordered everything but the cauliflower and calamari — a failing, I realized later, since more variety is always good.
My companion was in the mood for pizza, so the cheesy bread was the next-best option. One thing to know about White Pie’s style is that it doesn't shy away from the char of a classic wood-fired crust. Nothing tasted burnt on our cheesy bread, but if you aren’t used to a little carbon, beware.
The charcuterie was nothing more than bread, three olives, about ten hunks of cheese and a smattering of meats, all served on a miniature sheet tray (perfect for a toaster oven, perhaps) with two sauces. We ate every last bite of it, however, using the focaccia as sponges to sop up every last bit of rich pesto.
As I have mentioned in the past, I usually find arancini a waste of stomach space, but these, while small, were crunchy, crusty, and oh-so-cheesy. I wanted more. Which led me to the thought that perhaps White Pie's happy hour is meant to be more consistent with its European counterparts, like the Italian aperitivo or French apero (which, mind you, often include free snacks in the price of the drinks). We were there, then, not to sate our appetite, but to whet it with good company and small bites. So we gave in and enjoyed it for what it was before turning our aperitivo into an "apericena" — happy hour turned dinner — with more food at the regular menu price.
White Pie is located at 1702 Humboldt Street and offers two happy hours — from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Call 303-862-5323 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.
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