Cafe Society

The Oven Pizza e Vino opens second location in SouthGlenn

When Mark Tarbell envisioned The Oven Pizza e Vino, his first Colorado restaurant, he wanted it to serve the kind of food he'd cook at home for friends and neighbors: nothing particularly fancy, but everything satisfying. When the Oven made its debut at Belmar in November 2005, turning out a roster of thin-crust pies and tasty appetizers, it filled exactly that niche in Lakewood.

And it works just as well in the Streets at SouthGlenn. This second Oven, which opened last fall, is a dark, high-ceilinged spot, with long community tables and an open kitchen, paper napkins and friendly — but very casual — service, and the same starters and pizzas that work so well in Belmar.

The warm mozzarella is one of my favorite appetizers: The cheese is hand-stretched to order, creamy and springy, and drizzled with olive oil. I could eat it plain, although it's served with wood-fired focaccia. The summer ratatouille shows summer squash at its finest. And I love starting just about any dinner with a dish of olives; it's a bonus that the dish here includes plump, firm cerignolas mixed in with the kalamatas.

By and large, the pizzas are satisfying — though I wish the crust was airier, and I'd also like to see that addictive, hand-stretched mozzarella, rather than the grated stuff, used on the pies. Still, I was delighted by the palm-sized leaves of fresh basil on the margherita, and since I love a sunny-side-up egg on just about anything, I basically inhaled my egg and spinach pie, which was also topped with bacon and drizzled with tart, spicy sriracha.

If the Oven had existed in my preteen years, I'm certain it would have been a family mainstay. Now I like to eat lunch at the bar, with a glass of wine. The list is broad and interesting, but I always find myself ordering the cheapest glasses: The simple, refreshing pinot grigio has enough acid to take on the cheese and olive oil, and the medium-bodied, zippy red Montepulciano happens to work nicely with tomato sauce. Those wines go down easy and satiate, just like the food.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk