Pizza styles, like Denver citizens themselves, have come to the city from every part of the country, bringing their tastes with them. But perhaps the hardest to please are transplants from New York City, where population density and a pedestrian lifestyle translate to pie shops set up on nearly every block so that neighbors and commuters can grab a slice on a paper plate without missing a beat. New Yorkers are very specific about what makes a great slice of pizza, from the exact thickness of the crust to the way the grease should pool on top of the cheese to the foldability factor. In Denver as in New York, the keys to success also include a high-traffic location, the right cheese and toppings and a menu that doesn't stray into gourmet territory. After all, pizza by the slice is for people on the go who don't wan't all the bells and whistles and flowery descriptions that come with haute-cuisine pies. Here are the ten best pizza joints in Denver for New York-style pizza by the slice, listed in alphabetical order.
Benny Blanco's Slice of the Bronx
616 East 13th Avenue
This cramped joint, where you can't even step up to the register to pay for your slice if someone else is using the Parmesan and pepper shakers, is perhaps the closest in spirit to a NYC joint. Only a couple of stand-up rails along the wall are provided so that two or three customers can knock elbows while eating, so stepping outside to wolf a slice (and we do mean one; only the hungriest customer would need more) is often the best option. The crust also has a certain ineffable quality that may stem from years of flour dust burned into the oven decks. Topped-to-order slices come out of the oven nicely crisped without becoming toast, so you can fold or not, as is your personal preference. High foot traffic on 13th Avenue and lots of nearby bars and clubs means the place is always busy and the pies turn over quickly, whether at lunch or at 2 a.m.
Brooklyn's Finest Pizza
5007 Lowell Boulevard
This relative newcomer seems to be breaking the basic rule of putting a pie-by-the-slice shop in a high-traffic area. But despite the tranquil neighborhood locale, the corner of West 50th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard is surprisingly active, what with a new wave of young homebuyers and the Regis University campus right across the street. And the pizza itself makes up for any lack of traffic by drawing homesick Brooklynites from around the city. Native New Yorker Carlo Conti makes sure every slice tastes just like home, even the daily specials that add a little pizzazz to the menu. This is one of the few places where we'll stray from straight-up pepperoni or sausage for something a little different.
550 Grant Street, 303-777-3278
1325 Broadway, Boulder, 303-447-3278
659 30th Street, Boulder, 303-447-3278
Cosmo's got its start on the Hill in Boulder, the perfect location for shilling late-night slices to pedestrians and bar-hoppers. The newer Denver digs are a little more sedate, but the place still stays open until 2 a.m. nightly (and even later on the weekends). The crust is more crackly than chewy, but slices are big and thin and hit the spot after a couple of beers. Toppings mostly hew to tradition, but you could get a little fancy with spinach and feta cheese if that's your thing.
Denver Pizza Company
309 West 11th Avenue
Denver Pizza Company was founded by former Bachelorette contestant Mark Huebner in 2009, and while Huebner didn't win, Golden Triangle residents continue to make the walk-up joint a winner with their continued support. This is the thickest, sauciest, cheesiest pie of the group, so New Yorkers might feel a little overwhelmed at how to eat a slice on the go. But once you're settled into a seat (not inside, though, where there's just an order counter and a condiments station), folding is the way to go to ensure handheld success with these floppy giants.
98 South Broadway
Famous Pizza is a Broadway institution founded by Gus Mavrocefalos in 1974, making the weirdly spotless and gleaming pizza kitchen older than most of its customers. Classic slices with just enough sauce and cheese are churned out at a brisk pace, so they're nearly always hot and fresh out of the oven. The menu offers other Italian specialties if you want to sit down for a few minutes, but most of the customers stopping in at the busy corner shop will be on their way — slice in hand — before the cash register drawer slams shut.
For more great slices, keep reading...
141 South Broadway, 303-393-1515
3237 East Colfax Avenue, 303-333-4440
4275 Tennyson Street, 303-393-1515
Fat Sully's bakes one of the pricier slices on the list, but also one of the bigger. Thin and saucy, these slices droop at the tip, forcing diners to elevate their pizza for the first bite. After that, a two-handed grip or a complete fold (a partial bend won't do) is the only way to go. The three Fat Sully's, all in high-density neighborhoods, have walk-up windows only, but if the weather's bad or you need a drink with your slice, you can order inside the attached Atomic Cowboy bar at all of the locations.
The Pie Hole
44 South Broadway
The Pie Hole is the third in the Broadway trio of New York-style pizzerias, and the one with the thinnest, crispiest crust. It's also where lovers of goofy inventions go for combos like Alfredo sauce, potato and bacon; a hot-wing pie; or the BBQ Porker, slathered with barbecue sauce and loaded with pulled pork, pineapple and jalapeño. We go just for a couple of slices of sausage, because the sausage pieces are heated directly on the hot pizza deck until they're sizzling before being added to your slice. This one's another late-night favorite for the Broadway bar crowd spilling out of various watering holes after last call.
3499 West 32nd Avenue
This timeworn stop has been serving the West Highland neighborhood for more than thirty years, through many changes in the neighborhood's demographics. The place stays busy, though, peddling both thick- and thin-crust pizza to newcomers and old-timers alike. The New York-style crust is thin and floppy, and the cheese is piled on thick, resulting in a grease-drenched plate before you ever pick up your slice. A slick of orange oil and charred flour will be all that remain after you win your back-alley brawl with one of these generous wedges.
1579 South Pearl Street, 303-777-5878
2460 Eliot Street, 303-927-7764
1018 East 11th Avenue, 303-830-8111
A slice at Sexy Pizza has more in common with those at the Pie Hole than at any other joint on the list: thin and a little crunchy and almost demure in comparison to some of the more menacing monsters. But the sauce is a standout, with tangy tomato flavor that isn't overwhelmed by a thick, chewy crust. It really is the sexiest of the bunch, if that's what you're after.
700 East Colfax Avenue, 303-993-8127
1433 17th Street, 303-297-3464
SliceWorks seems almost too professional and too perfectly engineered to impress aficionados of street pizza. The word "gourmet" even appears on this Colfax eatery's menu, and the restaurant itself is shiny, new and double-decked, so you can eat your slice on the second floor while watching the parade of city folk down below. You'll also find an almost intimidating selection of toppings and sauces, like the pizza alla vodka pictured above, but the service leans closer to Colorado cheery than New York surly, so you won't feel rushed as you make your selection — and you'll even get a free pizza sample while you wait. New York may have invented the grab-and-run pizza, but Denver's not such a bad place to relax and enjoy something homegrown like SliceWorks.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.