Sunday, October 3, 2010

Impressions: Marco's Coal Fired Pizza

2129 Larimar Street
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 296-7000

(all photos by Adam Lindsley)
I'm on a cross-country road trip right now, and since I was passing through Denver, I knew I wanted to take Paulie Gee's son's suggestion to stop by Marco's Coal Fired Pizza downtown.

Let's get one thing out of the way right now, in case you hadn't heard: the pizza served here is not baked in a coal-fired oven. Marco's has two ovens, one coal-fired and one wood-fired, and the pizza is baked the wood-fired one. The coal-fired oven is used to cook most of the other items on the menu. So the name of the joint is a total misnomer, which probably won't matter to most customers, but to those who actually pay attention to these things, it's baffling.

Semantics aside, the pizza here is very good, and very much in the Neapolitan tradition (it's even VPN certified). Let's take a look at the Margherita ($11). The crust is made with Italian 00 flour, paper thin in the center with a puffy cornicione. The intensely hot wood-burning oven imparts fantastic leopard spotting on the crust's outer rim and excellent charring on the underside.

The tomato sauce, made from crushed canned San Marzanos, is slightly sweet and tastes fresh off the vine. The mozzarella is creamy (at least while it's still piping hot from the oven) and salted well. The basil is sparse, but what's there is plenty flavorful. It's a delicious Margherita that tastes almost exactly like every other VPN-certified pizzeria's Margherita (such as those from Tutta Bella or Ristorante Picolinos in Seattle). Everything's in balance. Do take note that the Margherita served in the $9 lunch special is smaller than the full-size pizzas.

The Margherita lunch special also comes with this simple green salad. The fresh mozzarella that comes on it is fantastic. Saltier and more like cheese curds than any other fresh mozzarella I've tried.

Also in perfect harmony are the many toppings on the Sicilia ($17). This behemoth is stacked with genoa salame, thin-sliced ham, artichokes, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and ricotta. So many toppings, and yet somehow they all work perfectly together. I had feared the ham might taste a little too much like Easter dinner, but it's light and sliced thinly enough that you can still taste the artichokes and mushrooms. The ricotta has a slight grain to it, but it's still pretty creamy overall. All of that together sounds very heavy, but it really isn't. It's hard to explain; you'll just have to try it for yourself to see what I mean. It was easy to down four or five slices of this pie in a short time.

I also tried an Italian Sausage and Red Onion pizza ($16), and unfortunately the balance wasn't here. I've ordered this combination of toppings before and had it come out divine, but this version tipped the scales of sweetness. The diced fennel sausage is surprisingly sweet, the red onions are very sweet, and the red sauce, as previously mentioned, is also sweet. Nothing really all that savory going on here. They were also heavy-handed with the mozzarella, so much so that its thickness surpassed the width of the crust beneath it. It wasn't terrible, and it's a damn sight better than a majority of the pizza in this country, but it fell short of the other pies I tried here.

Denver should be proud to have a place like Marco's within its midst. They really ought to change their name to Marco's Wood Fired Pizza to avoid false advertising, but if you can get past that little annoyance, you'll find some great authentic Neapolitan pizza here.


  1. Nice review and it looks like Great Pizza! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. @cedarglen: Thanks for checking out the blog! If you like authentic Neapolitan pizza, there's no way you won't like Marco's. I want to get back to Denver sometime to try Virgilio's, Pizzeria Rustica, and Two-Fisted Mario's.