In my last post I wrote of our visits to Brava Pizzeria Della Strada, and also to Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, both very near to where The Big Reveal took place. Even without the Big Reveal, though, the trip would have been successful because of these other two places. We were able to capture some great footage at both and will, eventually, be able to post it here as webisodes but, for now, I'll give a thumbnail sketch of how it went:
Dave Bravdica is another one of those guys -- we all seem to know such people now -- who left a successful professional career to pursue his true passion, feeding people. He became a caterer for a few years and then, having fallen under the magic spell of fire, became a pizzaiolo and also a wood-fired oven maestro. Somehow, he nailed down a primo spot on Denver's hip 16th St. Mall, parking his mobile oven on a terrace just above an underground cabaret. His pizzas are Napoletana inspired but tweaked with his own touches: Colorado grown and milled flour, locally sourced mushrooms, chili peppers, greens, and herbs. His meats are all cured or prepared within a few miles of the oven, exemplifying all the green values we've been learning to honor and love.
His own passion and ethic was fired in Italy, in much the same way Kelly Whitaker and, as we've all read, Mario Batali, found their culinary voices. The pizzas, he told us as we filmed away while tasting his Sonny Pizza (with Mondo Vecchia Sausage), his Fun Guy (yes, pun intended, laden with local shiitake mushrooms), and his Queen (of course, a Margherita), were just the beginning of his long range plans for the oven. For example, we got to taste his very popular porchetta sandwich on folded pizza dough, made with long, slow roasted tender as butter pork shoulder served with a couple of fun sauces. I'd like to go into more detail but we'll revisit all of this in a few months when we run the webisodes. Needless to say, by 11 AM, when Dave opened to the public, to whom he typically sells about 100 pizzas for lunch and then many more throughout the day, he had fed our whole crew and, so sated, we headed off to our next stop.
After an eight block walk, which included a stop at the Summit Beer Garden to see if we could get an early start setting up for the Big Reveal (the place was locked up tight and someone said to come back around 3 PM), we soon found ourselves at Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza at 21st and Larimer St. I'd heard about this place recently but wasn't prepared for how good it was, and how dedicated they were to authentic, VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) pizza. They actually have two ovens, one fired with coal and used to bake their wonderful lemoncello chicken wings as well as a quite decent gluten-free pizza (!!). The other oven is fired with local hard wood, and dedicated to the VPN pizzas, their pizzaiolos trained by the brilliant Roberto Caporuscio of New York City's Keste Pizzeria. I guess the locals have discovered Marco's because Marco Dym, the owner, has recently opened a second location in Englewood, Colorado, leaving the Larimer location in the capable hands of his daughter Samantha Monterosso, who served as our host when we pulled out the cameras and hung out with the pizza team. Again, we'll go deeper into this when we put up the videos, but I have to say, Marco's is the real deal and, along with some of the other Denver places that we didn't get to that are on my list, such as The Buenos Aires Pizzeria, which has an equally fanatical following, it looks like Denver is starting to make its case for becoming a great pizza city.
But this was all fun and delicious bonus material, a prelude to our real purpose for being in Denver. So, stuffed to the gills, we returned to The Summit Beer Garden, whose doors were now opened, bands starting to set up, and prepared to bake our own, original Challenge Pizzas and experience, for the first time, the Birra Basta created for us by The Bruery. How did that go? I'll focus on this in tomorrow's post….