The former home of Nicolo's Pizza at 1209 East 13th Avenue is about to become something new, but pizza is still part of the equation. Ritual Social House, a new concept from co-owners Brian Midtbo (who also owns Blackbird Public House) and Garrett Ladd (who has run several Denver neighborhood bars), has a grander vision than a simple pizza joint, though. The restaurant, according to the founders, will be centered on community, with large communal tables in the rustic and inviting dining room where locals and strangers alike can chat and enjoy a broad range of food and drinks.
Chef Ken Thivierge, whose experience covers time spent in the South and the New England seaboard as well as a wide variety of Denver venues, has created a menu filled with pizza, shared plates, sandwiches, salads, pastas and grains, and desserts. The star on the food roster is the chef's hand-tossed and Sicilian pan pizzas, of which he notes that the prosciutto and caramelized pear pie with garlic, olive oil, mozzarella, pecans, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar could be considered his signature creation. But there are twelve other house combos to tempt you, or you can build your own from a long list of ingredients.
Pizza lovers need to know what style of pizza they're getting, and Thivierge explains that his deep-dish combines elements of Chicago, Detroit and Sicilian styles, making it unique to Ritual Social House. The result is a crust that's not too thick or heavy, not too thin, and with a satisfying crunch.
The chef's other offerings include a smoked salmon board, blistered Brussels sprouts with orange-mustard vinaigrette, a cauliflower hummus board, and a bocadillo de calamares sandwich filled with fried calamari, garlic aioli and smoked poblano peppers.
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Meat eaters will appreciate Ritual's house-smoked bacon and substantial meatballs, but there are also lighter chicken and seafood dishes. Vegetarian and vegan diners haven't been forgotten; the menu includes abundant plant-based options. Thivierge says one of his goals is to create dishes that satisfy comfort food cravings without weighing guests down. After all, this is Colorado, and we have fourteeners to climb.
The dining room is bedecked with natural wood (evoking a ski-lodge ambience), a spectacular mural of a bear drinking a beer in front of the Rocky Mountains, and large televisions that will display Colorado pro and college sports and winter events like skiing and snowboarding. Take a peek into the restrooms, where chalkboard paint covers the walls, available for poets, artists and philosophers who have something profound to share with the world.
Midtbo and Ladd explain that they hope Ritual will become a fixture of the community, a great meet-up space, and a positive environment for employees. Their goal is to share a larger piece of the pie with Ritual team members, with compensation and benefits going above industry standards.
Gone are the days when Cricket on the Hill drew an eclectic mix of music fans to this address, but Ritual Social House plans on being there for neighbors as Capitol Hill evolves. The restaurant will be in soft-opening mode this weekend before grand-opening week kicks off on Monday, October 28. Hours will initially run from 3 to 11 p..m. daily, brunch will be added in November and lunch service will begin in December. Call 303-862-4566 or visit the Ritual Social House website for more details.