I know I said my goal for my current eating adventure would be to bring you the restaurants of Arapahoe Road, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t share a charming neighborhood pizza joint that sits just a couple blocks north of Arapahoe, off Parker and Orchard, by the name of LuBo’s NY Pizza.
LuBo’s started twenty years ago as a Lil’ Ricci’s and was part of the same group of restaurants that owned Big Bill’s New York Pizza back in the 1990s. LuBo's eventually branched off about ten years ago and purchased the rights to its own proprietary recipes after Lil' Ricci's was sold to a bigger corporation. Founders Luke and Bobbi Livingston took down the Lil’ Ricci’s sign and renamed the restaurant LuBo’s, a combination of their first names. Since then, the Livingstons have been serving up quality pies that have the pizzeria packed to the gills nearly every night.
“We were afraid the larger corporation would want us to start using frozen dough or some other quality-lowering practices," says Tresner Lycan, nephew of the Livingstons' and a waiter at LuBo’s. "That’s why we broke away from our former restaurant group. We wanted to keep the pizza simple and the ingredients fresh.”
At LuBo’s, you won’t be waited on by bored, eye-rolling millennials outraged at a request for an extra place setting. Instead, you’ll be greeted by smiling servers and cooks (likely all from the same family) from the minute you walk in. Unwavering courtesy and customer-focused service are an obvious priority for the folks at LuBo’s, second only to the quality of the pizza. Whether asking to split a pie into three different topping sections or rearrange the dining room to accommodate your uneven party of seven, you’ll never feel shamed when making a request.
“We want people to come here and feel relaxed and enjoy their food,” Lycan adds. “That’s why we have so many close friends and family members working for us, because they understand what kind of environment my aunt and uncle want to convey for their customers.”
Bobbi Livingston admits that family gatherings are tricky outside of work, since “someone from the family is always working at any given time, unless it’s on one of the few holidays that we’re closed.” But family team members never looks stressed or angry, and obviously work well together in the kitchen and on the floor.
“We like LuBo’s because we can bring our kids here and relax while they play video games far enough away that my husband and I can have a conversation and enjoy a beer, but close enough that we can see them," explains regular customer Allison Schaefer. "It’s an enjoyable night out for our whole family, and we always feel welcome when we come here.”
The service isn’t the only arena in which you’ll feel at home. The generous portions of both food and drink would put my food-pushing grandma to shame. The wine, while not top-shelf, is affordable at $5 a pour (up to the brim, no less) and pairs well with a casual slice of pizza.
You will always see someone flipping and tossing pizza dough in the open kitchen — a sure sign that you’re getting a fresh product. The New York-style pizza ($16.75 and up) comes in familiar, large-enough-to-fold slices, complete with slicks of orange grease and stretchy mozzarella. If you’re a cracker-thin-crust fanatic, you may be disappointed with the New York-style, as it’s definitely more pliant and chewy than crunchy and thin. If it’s a golden-brown crunch you’re looking for, though, then the square-cut, Sicilian thick-crust pizza ($21 and up) could be your jam.
Whether you choose Sicilian thick or the New York thin, the crust has an addictive, chewy texture with a subtle umami yeast flavor that makes LuBo’s pies unique and craveable. The sauce adds its own layer of personality; a smack of juicy home-grown tomato and a smidgen of oregano-kissed garlic. The proprietary secret cheese blend that’s grated in-house browns up nicely in the oven and gives a thick enough consistency to sink your teeth into without dragging everything else off the top in one bite. Toppings are fresh, and an extra bit of cheese sprinkled around the perimeter helps them stay secure.
The perks of visiting LuBo’s during lunch include a quieter dining room (dinner can often mean a wait for a table) and budget-friendly specials. For $6.75, you'll get two slices of the New York-style cheese pizza and a drink; $8.25 gets you one slice of cheese, a salad with a habit-forming garlic knot and a drink; $8.50 lands a sausage or meatball sandwich with chips and a drink; and if you’re in the mood for a midday order of spaghetti, you can get a plate with bread and a drink for $8. Whether you take your pie to go or want to eat it there, LuBo’s busiest nights are Friday and Saturday, so expect a longer wait in the small area at the front of the eatery. While you wait, you can play games in the small arcade area or enjoy sports on prominently placed TVs.
You might notice the military photos on the wall above the kitchen; these were given to the Livingstons as a gift by a longtime regular customer and professional photographer. The photo on the far left is a copy of an original photo he took, which Barack Obama hung in the Pentagon during his presidency.
Even if LuBo’s isn’t in your neck of the woods or you’re not a fan of suburbia, it's worth a trip to experience a quintessential neighborhood pizza joint with mouthwatering pies, glasses overflowing with wine, and a staff that feels like part of your family.
LuBo’s is located at 15352 East Ida Drive in Centennial and is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit the pizzeria's website for more information or call 303-693-9196 for carry-out orders or reservations.
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