Chef News

Mark Dym keeps it simple at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza

It's 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, the crowds at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza have finally thinned, and owner-chef Mark Dym is exhausted. "I was up at 4 a.m. yesterday morning so I could make 800 fucking pounds of chicken wings," he says, before quickly adding that he's "not complaining." He pauses, sweeps the room with his intense eyes and declares: "This is the best job I've ever had. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love what I do, how much satisfaction I get from the people who walk through that door every day, some of them twice in 24 hours. It's just amazing."

And it's a far cry from Dym's former gig as the owner of a commodities company in Fort Lauderdale, where he, his wife, Kristy, and their three kids had a gorgeous house near the beachfront and a cushy lifestyle — but not much of an actual life. "I was making a ton of money, but I wasn't happy," admits Dym, who also confessed that he'd never set foot in Colorado before upping and leaving the land of palm trees and Cadillacs for pine trees and unicycles back in 2007, the same year he opened his pizzeria in the Ballpark neighborhood.

That's where I sat down with Dym last week. And while he shoved chocolate chip cannolis and pizzas under my nose, he professed his love for Caputo 00 Flour, waxed rhapsodic over Brian Laird, the executive chef at Barolo Grill, and dissed Denver's dearth of simple Italian joints.

Six words to describe your food: Simple, authentic, classic, pure, delicious and comforting.

Ten words to describe you: Obsessive, driven, passionate, fiery, loyal, sensitive, witty, accommodating, generous and entrepreneurial.

Best food city in America: Vegas, baby! I had the best meal ever in Las Vegas at a place called Bartolotta Ristorante De Mare. I was in Las Vegas for the 2008 pizza expo, and I met this whole Italian contingent — guys like Don Antonio, who owns Pizzeria Starita in Napoli and Sergio Miccu, the president of the Association of Pizzeria Napolitano — and we ended up at Bartolotta, where we had a waiter from Naples who took our menus away and had the kitchen just cook for us. I can't even tell you what we ate, but I remember that every dish was better than the last dish. The food was off the charts, just phenomenal. I've thought about this for a long time, and you know what? It was a meal that could never be duplicated.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen: It's all about teamwork. You gotta work together and stay focused. I don't want to see any telephones or texting. None of that shit is allowed in my kitchen. Wash your hands. People who don't wash their hands drive me fucking crazy. Every guest is entitled to a perfect product. If you don't agree with that, then you can fucking leave — and I'll cook it. At the same time, I'll give my staff the shirt off my back, but ultimately, I don't expect less than perfection.

Most overrated ingredient: Dried oregano. I hate oregano. It's bitter. It's overpowering. It sucks. I use a little bit here at the restaurant, in my chicken wing marinade, but it's fresh and I use it sparingly.

Most undervalued ingredient: Fresh rosemary. It has such a refreshing, great flavor. It's a happy flavor. I use tons of it.

One food you detest: Anchovies. Fucking hate them. Don't like the way they, taste, smell, feel or look. I hate everything about them. They're not on the menu at Marco's, but if someone asks for them — that's rare — I do have some white anchovies on hand.

What you'd like to see more of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: I would love to find a simple Italian restaurant where I could order an authentic veal milanese with a little salad and a side of penne arrabbiata. I don't want fancy shit, just a nice big veal chop, flattened out with the breading. There's nowhere I can get that in this town.

What you'd like to see less of in Denver from a culinary standpoint: All that fusion-confusion shit. I'm confused. I don't get it. I don't mean any disrespect to any confusion restaurant out there, but in my opinion, there's enough of them.

Current Denver culinary genius: Brian Laird, the executive chef at Barolo Grill. The guy is completely off the charts and yet so underrated. What's so cool about Brian is that he's actually in the kitchen cooking. I love his creativity, passion, quirkiness and energy, and he always has something new he's working on. Every time I go in for dinner, he just cooks for me. He'll put a dish on my table and say, drink this, or eat this. Last time it was cantaloupe soup with sour cream gelato, and I gotta tell you, it's the most memorable dish I've had in Denver. When you let him loose, he's just fantastic. I also think that Larry DiPasquale, the president of Epicurean Catering, is amazing from an execution standpoint. He blows me away with his execution, no matter if it's a party for 50 or 5,000. His execution is utterly flawless.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson

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