There are a lot of options for pizza in the Denver metro area — including the spots that made Westword's recent list of the ten best
. On December 20, 2021, a new contender opened at 103 South Public Road in Lafayette: Ghost Box Pizza
. But the only spooky thing about this new restaurant from the Stem Ciders team is how it haunts your pizza dreams long after you've finished its Detroit-style pies — especially if you get the Ghost Pig, a spicy-sweet dish with bacon, charred pineapple, red onion, sliced jalapeño and a tangy-hot ghost pepper sauce.
Behind the pies is chef Matt Ochs, a 35-year kitchen veteran. Ochs has worked at numerous restaurants across Denver, Boulder and the surrounding areas (including the Greenbriar Inn in Boulder, Culture Meat & Cheese in Denver Central Market and the Post Chicken & Beer's Lafayette location), but he'd never made a pizza before this venture.
In order to learn, the chef did a lot of research, watched online videos and talked to experts on both wood-fired and Detroit-style pizza. Ochs learned to make the right dough, using some of the skills that he picked up when running a bagel shop decades ago, he says. As for the toppings, he plans to get local and seasonal goods for Ghost Box Pizza when the farmers' market season starts up again.
For now, the menu consists of six Detroit-style pizzas, including the aforementioned Ghost Pig as well as an equally memorable spicy pepperoni; potato-rosemary; chicken-bacon-ranch; classic margherita; and one topped with mortadella, Gouda and melted onion. Choose from two sizes: small (which serves about two people for $13-$18) and large (enough for a super-hungry duo or up to four diners for $15-$28).
The spicy pepperoni Detroit-style pie at Ghost Box Pizza.
There's also a 14-inch, wood-fired pizza menu with five choices, as well as a create-your-own pizza option, salads, garlicky cheesy bread with dipping sauce, burrata and meatballs. Take a look at the sandwich list, too — it includes a toasted Italian, eggplant caponata, meatball sub, wood-fired chicken with peppers, and a hot dog dubbed the Lafayette Coney. Cocktails (made with Stem cider, of course) and local beer and wine are on the menu, too.
Just as pizza wasn't originally the plan for Ochs, it wasn't the intended path for owners Eric Foster and Phil Kao, who started Stem Ciders in 2013. The team launched its first restaurant concept, Acreage (an offshoot of the Denver taproom) in Lafayette four years ago, with a focus on local food and farm-fresh ingredients, all paired with the cider program.
Ghost Box Pizza, on the other hand, was an idea born during the restaurant shutdown in 2020, when it began as a ghost kitchen operating out of Acreage. The concept slowly gained a following and, eventually, the team decided to open it as a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Originally, Ghost Box Pizza was helmed by chef Cody Scott. Ochs came on board to help get the kitchen going, and when Scott exited the project, Ochs took the reins.
A skylight brightens up Ghost Box Pizza.
Located in the former Miller's Bar & Grille, the remodel of the 7,065-square-foot space included opening up the ceilings, exposing the now-white rafters made brighter thanks to skylights in the roof. The stand-alone tables are spaced out so it feels like you have room to move, and a long bar against the wall adds some easy seats for solo diners. The downstairs, complete with televisions and arcade games, is available for large parties and special events.
For now, Ghost Box Pizza is open for dine-in and takeout, but delivery will be added soon, says director of operations Sarah Ingraham, and a grand-opening party with pizza samples, a ribbon-cutting and a DJ is scheduled for March 28 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Ghost Box Pizza is located at 103 South Public Road, Lafayette and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. For more information, visit ghostboxpizza.com.