Old School Pizza Restaurants to Try in Denver | Westword


Old-School Pizza Restaurants to Try in Denver

Places like Carl's, Lechuga's, Frank the Pizza King and Vinnola's, which turned fifty this year, have been serving pies in the Mile High for decades.
The first Beau Jo's opened in 1973.
The first Beau Jo's opened in 1973. Beau Jo's Pizza
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Denver has become a pizza city. Sure, people like to bemoan the lack of good pies in the Mile High, but the scene has evolved substantially in the last decade — especially in the past few years.

Our current list of the ten best pizza places in town spans many different styles, from classic Neapolitan to a new trend: spots using sourdough crust as the base. Detroit-style pies have gained popularity over the years and now, more and more Chicago tavern-style options have moved into the region. Whether you're looking for the quick satisfaction of pizza by the slice or a spot to grab a pie paired with a cold beer, high-quality choices abound.

But before trendier places like Cart-Driver or new addition Red Tops Rendezvous joined the party, there were plenty of longtime staples that have been in the pizza game for decades.

Here are fourteen old-school spots for pizza and other Italian American classics that have withstood the test of time:

Beau Jo's
Multiple locations
Those who grew up on East Coast pizza may be skeptical of Beau Jo's "Colorado mountain pies," which are hand-rolled at the edges to hold in a pile of toppings, but since opening its first location in Idaho Springs in 1978, it's gained a lot of fans and grown to six locations in the state, with another slated to open in Denver at 2100 South University Boulevard. Sold by the pound with honey on the side for dipping your crust, those pies are a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts taking an I-70 detour to sate their appetite after a long day in the hills. Nowadays, Beau Jo's also offers more traditional "prairie pies" and cauliflower and gluten-free crust options alongside its menu of appetizers, salads, calzones and more.
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Carl's Pizza is now run by John Ludwig, who started working at the restaurant in 1976.
Danielle Lirette
Carl's Pizza
3812 West 38th Avenue
When north Denver was called simply the Northside, the area was filled with Italian eateries that fed the neighborhood for decades. And while most — including Patsy's, Pagliacci’s, Carbone’s and Longo’s Subway Tavern — are long gone, Carl's remains. Surrounded by trendy spots in what's now called the Highland neighborhood, this spot that opened in 1953 hasn't changed much since then. Now owned by John Ludwig, who landed his first job at Carl’s at age sixteen in 1976, its maintained its old-school, no-frills atmosphere — and still serves sausage made in-house, calzones, pasta, pizza on a not-too-thin, not-too-thick crust and more.
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Frank the Pizza King on South Broadway.
Danielle Lirette
Frank the Pizza King
4701 South Broadway, Englewood
Founded in 1961 by Frank Krascek, this longtime Englewood staple is now run by Walter (Frank's son) and Maria Krascek. Alongside medium-crust pies, which are the main draw, the sixty-year-old joint also offers homemade sausage sandwiches, Italian subs and other diner-style dishes.

5600 West Dartmouth Avenue
Antoinette Russo opened Giuseppe's in 1988 after she arrived in Denver from Napoli. Last year, the business was purchased by new owner Laura Frolick, whose goal is to keep Russo's legacy going. She's only made one change: working with what she calls a "dough engineer" to perfect the buttery crust. Along with pizza, Giuseppe's offers calzones, wings, sandwiches, salads and pasta.
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Square pizzas at Lechuga's Italian.
Danielle Lirette
3609 Tejon Street
A north Denver staple since 1961, Lechuga's is a family-owned and -operated Italian restaurant that is well known for its sausage canoli and square pizza. It began as the bakery for Carbone's, a now-closed Italian market and sandwich shop. From there, Lechuga's evolved into a restaurant and has kept its recipes the same since day one. The "spanoli plate" is a unique dish that includes canoli paired with a side of spaghetti. Lechuga's has successfully served the Northside for generations and remains a go-to for many Denverites seeking reliably good old-school pizza and Italian food.

Original Pizza Broomfield
1300 West Midway Boulevard, Broomfield
Raffaele, Carmela and Carmela's father, Giuseppe Aiello, opened Original Pizza in Broomfield in 1991. They were all born in Italy and came to Colorado with the goal of bringing the best pizza and Italian food to this region. The menu features both Sicilian and New York-style pizza, sandwiches, calzones and lunch and dinner specials.

Pietra's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant
9045 West 44th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
Since 1964, the family-owned Pietra's has been serving homemade Italian food including pizza, soups, salads, sandwiches, canolis, pasta and more in northwest Denver. Its secret? It hasn't changed a thing since opening 58 years ago.
Pizza Alley/Instagram
Pizza Alley
3499 West 32nd Avenue
Even as the Northside evolved into what is now named the Highland neighborhood, Pizza Alley has remained consistent on the corner of 32nd and Lowell, serving up the same recipes as the original owners did on day one. Pizza Alley has seen four separate owners since it opened in 1976; the most recent owner purchased it in 2020. The menu features longtime favorites like New York-style pies available whole or by the slice, calzones, pasta and sub sandwiches.
The Romano Special Pizza with sausage, mushroom, pepperoni, oven-roasted green peppers and onion.
Romano's Pizzeria/Instagram
Romano's Italian Restaurant
5666 South Windermere Street, Littleton
The Romano family came to America from Italy by boat in the early 1900s, and patriarch Giovanni pushed a cart on the streets of New York City. In 1967, his grandchildren Neil and Ellie Romano opened Romano's in Littleton; it had only three tables at the time. Today it's owned by Neil and Ellie's son John, daughter Sue Romano Calhoun, and John and Sue's niece, Jordan. The restaurant stays true to the family's East Coast roots and has a wide-ranging menu that includes brick-oven Italian pizza and calzones, pasta, seafood entrees and some of the best lunch specials around.

Santeramo's Pizza
8410 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada
Since 1977, Santeramo's has been a locally owned neighborhood fixture in Arvada that prides itself on the quality of its New York-style pizza, which is baked in a stone oven. The menu also includes pasta, salads, sandwiches and Sugar Fritas, a sopaipilla-like treat made with pizza dough.

3 Sons Italian Restaurant
14805 West 64th Avenue, Arvada
Susan and Michael Scarafiotti purchased 3 Sons in 2004 from its original owners, the Sannino family, which opened the restaurant in 1964. The Scarafiottis, with decades of restaurant experience under their belts, revamped the menu, redecorated the dining room, and made 3 Sons their own. Along with its specialty pizzas, the restaurant offers Italian staples like pasta, plus dinner specials like fried chicken on Mondays.
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Vinnola's has been serving Wheat Ridge since 1973.
Mark Antonation
Vinnola's Italian Market
7750 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
Vinnola's has been around for fifty years and is a market, bakery, deli, bakery and restaurant all under one roof. When it was founded, original owners Mike and Lorene Vinnola focused mainly on the bakery; some of their original recipes, like the bread dough, are still used today. Along with pizza, which is available fresh and as a take-and-bake meal, some of the more popular items from Italian bakers Salvatore Giacalone and Marla Crum are the butter cookies, bread, cannoli and lasagna.
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The buffet is a staple at Woody's.
Woody's Wood Fired Pizza
Woody's Wood Fired Pizza
1305 Washington Avenue, Golden

This year marks Woody's 30th anniversary. The popular Golden staple was opened by Bart Bortles in 1993 and is run by his son, Jon, today. While you can order pies à la carte, along with sandwiches, burgers, wings and other crowd-pleasing fare, Woody's is best known for its buffet, where you can load on up salad, beer cheese soup and slices — topping requests are welcome.
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