Thursday, August 22, 2013

Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza

Wow, has it really been nine months since I told you to go to Pizza Brain? Holy cow, I'm back from the dead everyone, and just in time to tell you about my favorite pizzeria in Colorado, Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza.

Located in beautiful downtown Denver, just around the corner from Coor's Field, sits MCF in a tastefully refurbished brick building that emanates that familiar toasty pizza aroma around the neighborhood. Founded by Mark Dym nearly six years ago, Marco's is Colorado's only VPN-certified pizzeria-

Yes, I did say VPN. Any pizzaphile worth their salt, water, flour and yeast should know instantly that something here is amiss, but we'll get to that later. I arrived straight from the airport and promptly took a seat near the oven (where else?) to take in the action.

Beautiful spot, ammiright? After perusing the menu, I opted for a Margherita with sweet Italian sausage on half, and a Del Re (mozz, mushrooms, prosciutto, basil, and Pecorino Sardo truffle spread) for good measure. All that was left to do was to sit back, relax, and watch the pizzaiolo get to work.

I really love these ovens. Not only is it bad-ass to have two of these behemoths side-by-side, but they even have sliding doors atop the mouth of the oven. Wait, what the hell is that?!

Is that- yes, that's a barrel of wood shavings! What the hell, Marco?! Coal-fired? If the VPN certification wasn't enough to tip you off, it's now abundantly clear that this place is a misnomer, and should really be called Marco's Wood-Fired Pizza. That being said, Mark isn't really being disingenuous- while the pizza is in fact cooked via wood fire, he uses the second oven to slow cook his chicken and other meats that would otherwise get scorched in its 900 degree wood-burning counterpart.

Boom, first pie is up! It's clear to see how MCF got their VPN cred, but what you might not know is that Mark employed the help of APN (Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani) president and friend of mine, Roberto Caporuscio. And who better? If you remember, I bumped into Roberto at Spacca Napoli in Chicago a few years back doing the same thing- teaching pizzaioli how to make the best pies in town.

Simply stunning, and really well-balanced to boot. The fresh mozzarella is cooked to that perfect slightly-scorched gooey-ness that you can rely on a VPN joint to serve.

The sausage, seasoned with just a hint of fennel and black pepper, was also tasty. However, and this is just personal preference, I much prefer my Italian sausage in crumbled hunks, as opposed to say sliced or cubed like in this case. No matter, the flavor is there and that's what matters most.

Next up is our Del Re, another babe of a pie if I do say so myself. As far as 'traditional' Neapolitan pies go, this one is pretty unconventional. I was really digging the combo of prosciutto and mushrooms, not to mention the seemingly-hidden layer of Pecorino Sardo truffle spread.

In all honesty, I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with truffle, just as I do for garlic for the same reason: in the wrong, shaky hands, too much can kill and completely overwhelm whatever other ingredients are in your mix. It's hard to balance, but when it's done right, you just melt.

Mark/Marco, you're doing it right. It's also worth noting that since I've visited, Mark has added pizzi fritti to his menu, the only place to my knowledge doing fried pizza in the States outside of NYC. If you weren't 2000 miles away, I'd be back in a heartbeat (in fact, my parents were recently back in town and couldn't help but return for another pie). But don't take my word for it...

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