Pizza may be the perfect food in any situation and the one thing we could eat nearly every day without ever tiring of the limitless possibilities of crust, sauce and toppings. Whether grabbing a sloppy slice on a paper plate or sitting down with a vintage wine with fork and knife in hand (gasp!), there's a pie for every occasion. Thin and crispy, big and floppy or thick and chewy, the many pizza configurations keep us happy. Here are the ten best pizza places in Denver — in many different styles.
Benny Blanco's Slice of the Bronx
616 East 13th Avenue
This cramped joint, where you can't even step up to the register to pay for your slice if someone else is using the Parmesan and pepper shakers, is perhaps the closest in spirit to a New York City spot. Only a couple of stand-up rails along the wall are provided so that two or three customers can knock elbows while eating, so stepping outside to wolf a slice (and we do mean one; only the hungriest customer would need more) is often the best option. The crust also has a certain ineffable quality that may stem from years of flour dust burned into the oven decks. Topped-to-order slices come out of the oven nicely crisped without becoming toast, so you can fold or not as is your personal preference. High foot traffic on 13th Avenue and lots of nearby bars and clubs means the place is always busy and the pies turn over quickly, whether at lunch or at 2 a.m.
Blue Pan Pizza
3930 West 32nd Avenue, 720-456-7666
3509 East 12th Avenue, 720-519-0944
Who knew that Denver would embrace Detroit-style pizza when Blue Pan Pizza debuted in 2015 in West Highland? Under the focused eye of chef and co-founder Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch (who now runs two Blue Pan locations with partner Giles Flanagin), the cozy pizzeria starts with a traditional base — an airy, crackly crust, Wisconsin brick cheese and a thick, tangy sauce — and adds toppings that modern customers crave, from paper-thin folds of prosciutto and fresh piles of arugula to burrata, green chiles and Tender Belly bacon. Beyond the Detroit-style pies, Blue Pan also offers award-winning Italian thin-crust, an even thinner Chicago cracker crust, and big slices of New York-style pizza.
2500 Larimer Street
Cart-Driver opened in summer 2014 in a trendy shipping-container development in RiNo. At 640 square feet, the 25-seat restaurant is smaller than some studio apartments, but the pizzas coming out of the tiny kitchen are big, big, big in flavor. Although the spot takes the fast-casual approach, with counter service, a tightly edited menu (no design-your-own pies) and a handful of small plates, the ingredients are top-notch and the food is produced with care. Bargain-hunters should be sure to hit the two happy hours.
Denver Deep Dish
1200 West 38th Avenue
Tennessee boy Jason McGovern + Chicago-style deep dish pizza + North Denver = one damn good slice. What was once nothing more than a takeout window at the back of the Bar Car became a full-fledged restaurant in January 2015, and while sandwiches, wings and other bar food can be had at this Highland spot, the specialty is Chicago-style pizza built on a buttery, tender crust with high sides to contain the mountain of toppings. Unlike many of the Windy City's notorious pies, those at Denver Deep Dish aren't overblown, soupy messes, but rather well-balanced constructions that layer sauce, cheese and toppings in harmony so that tomato doesn't dominate. Traditional ingredients like spicy Polidori sausage, spinach and mushrooms share space with Southwestern concoctions like the 505, kicked up with green chiles, chicken and Mark Schlereth's Stinkin' Good green-chile sauce. Thin-crust versions are also available, and weekend brunch boasts an outstanding breakfast pie loaded with scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, salsa and breakfast meats.
Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza
2129 Larimer Street, 303-296-7000
10111 Inverness Main Street, Englewood, 303-790-9000
Every restaurant is cooking with wood these days, it seems, but in the Ballpark neighborhood back in 2008, true Neapolitan pizza was unheard of. Owner/pizzaiola Mark Dym’s obsession with every step of pizza production led him to becoming the only restaurant in Colorado certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the organization that makes sure the right ingredients, equipment and techniques are used to produce the perfect pie. Those exacting standards result in a light crust with just the right amount of bubbling and char, a delicate sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, and toppings that capture the spirit of the old country. Over the past decade, Dym’s pizzeria has remained the first word in Denver pizza.
George Eder, the exec-chef/owner of Pizza Republica, got started early in restaurants, tossing pizza dough at his uncle's joint. "I was washing dishes, flipping dough and making pizzas — and I loved it, except for the fact that my uncle was incredibly secretive about his sauce," says Eder. "It was so damn good, but he never shared the recipe. Even now, he still won't part with it." Undeterred, Eder opened Pizza Republica in Greenwood Village in 2008, giving the southern ’burbs a comfortable, stylish spot where customers can find one of the best personal-sized pies around. The business has since expanded to downtown (right next to the Colorado Convention Center) and Glendale, spreading the wood-fired love throughout the metro area.
1730 Pearl Street, Boulder
After Frasca Food & Wine, founders Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson looked to another part of Italy for inspiration: the city of Naples. The first Pizzeria Locale, which opened in Boulder in 2011, attempted to re-create exactly the Napolitano pizzeria experience, from the custom-built imported oven to pies served uncut, meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. As Locale expanded, though, the offerings and cooking method were streamlined to fit the fast-casual model. For the most authentic pizza experience, stick with the Boulder original. But for the price, the two counter-service outposts (at 550 Broadway and 3484 West 32nd Avenue) are hard to beat, even if the high-tech gas ovens result in a slightly different flavor and texture.
5380 West Mississippi Avenue
On the border of Lakewood and Denver, where tacos, burritos and tamales abound, you'll find filling fourteen-inch pies (bigger than standard individual pizzas) with fresh, quality ingredients cooked in chef/owner Zach Parini's 900-degree wood-burning oven. The pizzas are big enough for two, but order more than one for a little variety; that way, you can sample seasonal combos like a butternut, bacon and pistachio number perfect for cool weather, or a bright heirloom-tomato, sweet corn and pesto pie once summer rolls around.
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2669 Larimer Street
According to proprietor Andrea Frizzi (who has turned out great Italian cuisine at Il Posto for more than a decade), Vero was born when Central Market developer Ken Wolf asked the Italian chef if he knew anyone who could do pizza. "I said, 'Dude. The fuck?'" recalls Frizzi. And he signed the lease for a market stall the next day. Vero offers Milanese-style pizza, which is thinner and crispier than its Napolitano cousin, and topped considerably more creatively. (Frizzi says Milanese pizzas in Italy can be topped with oddities like hot dogs and french fries.) Vero's crust is cracker-crisp, with a nice yeasty complexity; we like ours simply adorned with tangy tomato sauce, bubbling mozzarella and biting fresh basil, though pies here come topped with everything from ricotta and egg to tuna and olives.
1702 Humboldt Street
At White Pie, brothers Kris and Jason Wallenta dish up wood-fired pizzas inspired by their childhood in New Haven, Connecticut. But even though their pizzas were inspired by an East Coast classic, they aren’t chained to tradition — just as their tacos at Dos Santos, the Mexican restaurant they run around the corner, aren’t bound by Mexican custom. Freed from expectations, White Pie’s crisp, charred, often garlicky, just-cheesy-enough pizzas open us to new possibilities for what else pizza can be, without straying into the crazy land of pineapple and barbecue sauce. Some are white, like the best-selling White Pie — with mozzarella sprinkled over crème fraîche, plus bacon, garlic, mushrooms and a poached egg — and the mind-boggling (in a good way) Paulie Walnuts, with cheese, mashed potatoes, candied walnuts and bacon. Others are red, like the Porky Porkorino, with sopressata that curls and crisps around the edges from the oven’s high heat, plus pickled jalapeños and chile-infused honey. Even if this style of pizza isn’t your thing, you’re sure to find something that is at White Pie, whether it’s creamy, ten-layered lasagna, cacio e pepe or a frozen Negroni.