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Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria opens today at Vallagio at Inverness

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Mark Dym isn't a big proponent of hoopla or fanfare, and today's opening of Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria at Vallagio at Inverness, Peter Kudla's "Midtown" retail, resident and restaurant development just off Dry Creek and I-25, was soft and quiet. By 2:30 p.m., fifty people, several of them families, had wandered in to check out the space and feast on pizza, salads, calzones and, in my case, fried pizzas, which aren't on the menu but will be offered as specials.

The doughs, fried in palm oil for less than thirty seconds, are then surfaced with a wood-fired cooked sauce of San Marzano tomatoes kissed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil and topped with nubs of smoked provola (smoked bufala mozzarella) and fresh mozzarella before they're slid into the wood-fired oven, emerging puffed and charred and greaseless. They're incredibly light, slightly chewy and crispy and utterly delicious -- and you can't get them at the Ballpark Marco's, since that location doesn't have a fryer. But the new Marco's does, and Dym couldn't be more excited about the acquisition. "I had the fried pizzas for the first time last year when I was in Italy, and I absolutely loved them," he says. "And I knew that I wanted a fryer in this location so that we could do them here."

But aside from the fried pizzas (Dym also has plans to create a french-fry-and-hot-dog pizza, which he swears is amazing), the menu at the new Marco's is exactly the same as the original, and he's hoping that the 'hood appreciates his pizzas as much as they do downtown. "I think this area is hugely underserved, and there are plenty of people out here who are craving independent restaurants," he says. "This is a very neighborhood-y -- not boxy -- area, and we've definitely brought something urban to a suburban community. I think this store has the potential to be busier than the Ballpark store," he adds. The quarters, which are much larger than the Ballpark location's, include a bar, tables made from recycled soup cans, lofty ceilings, a private dining room and an open kitchen. Design-wise, it's similar to the downtown address, but without the historic preservation. "This is definitely a much larger space, and some of the design elements are the same, but you can't duplicate a building built in 1883," notes Dym. This address also trumpets a covered breezeway and two patios that seat eighty. And it sits directly across from Russo's Kitchen + Tavern, another Kudla- and Dym-operated restaurant whose kitchen will be commanded by Brian Laird, who just returned from a holiday in Hawaii.

Russo's will open around March 20, and to celebrate both that opening -- and Marco's -- there will be an invite-only grand-opening party.

For more info on Marco's, call 303-790-9000.

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