One of the perks of my job as a food writer is that I get to eat at every kind of restaurant in the city. The downside is that I'm no longer a regular at any one eatery. Twenty years ago, though, I lived close enough to Famous Pizza, at 98 South Broadway, that I made a habit of grabbing an occasional manhole-cover-sized sausage pizza, which would serve as dinner and a late-night snack, as well as breakfast and lunch the next day. For residents of nearby neighborhoods, Famous has been a go-to for a quick slice, a sit-down calzone or a whole pizza since 1974.
But that's about to come to an end.
The White Palace building sold to a new a owner last spring, and that new owner, Bayaud Investors LLC, is raising rents. Already out is Socorro's, a tiny taqueria that operated for a decade before closing at the end of July. Gus Mavrocefalos, the owner of Famous Pizza, says he will close his pizzeria on Monday or Tuesday, depending on when he runs out of ingredients. (Even today, there was no more Diet Coke or Mr. Pibb on tap or sausage for the pizza). "They just want too much money," the owner says of the new landlord.
The employee who took my order (two pepperoni slices, although I ended up with three because the pizza baker said one of them was small) says she's worked at Famous Pizza for 32 years and adds that the closing is sad for her, the customers and Mavrocefalos. "I started when I was just a young girl, and now I'm not so young," she says with a wistful smile.
What's sadder still is that Bayaud Investors has already signed a new tenant: Voodoo Doughnut. Nothing against Voodoo, which spearheaded a counterculture doughnut movement in Portland, Oregon, when founders Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon opened their first shop in 2003, but Denver already has one Voodoo outpost. The shop, at 1520 East Colfax Avenue, opened on January 15, 2013, shortly after Shannon was handed DUI and reckless-driving verdicts for running into a porta-potty in Portland with his Mercedes.
Voodoo Doughnut sent out its official press release on August 23, calling the site of its new location the "SOBO district" and promising an opening date in the coming year. When the Colfax doughnut shop opened five years ago, it was a fun and refreshing addition to Denver, and fans lined up around the block to carry out the big pink boxes filled with outlandish flavors. But now that the novelty has worn off, perhaps something more original would suit the stretch of Broadway that separates Baker from the lesser-known Speer neighborhood. But with the kind of money that's now involved, it's no wonder that a national player with nearly two decades of success would have an advantage over a locally owned business.
All good things eventually end, but while Mavrocefalos is no longer a young man, he says he wasn't ready to call it quits in the pizza business. His lease ended last summer, and he's been month-to-month since then, while the property management shopped for a new tenant. But after looking for a new home for Famous Pizza, he determined that he just couldn't afford to stay in the neighborhood and didn't want to move beyond the range of his regular customers.
Stop in for some pizza and conversation over the next couple of days to say goodbye to a Broadway original. Famous Pizza is open from 10 a.m. to midnight tonight and tomorrow, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. thereafter — until the last pie is served.
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