New York transplant Phil Ginsburg peers into the window of a local pizzeria, sees a young hipster with a long, meticulously manicured beard tossing dough, and shakes his head.
“They shouldn’t let anybody under 30 make pizzas,” he says. “They don’t have the life experience.”
That declaration tells you everything you need to know about the relationship between New Yorkers (even expatriated New Yorkers) and their sacred pies. There are rules. There are orthodoxies. You must approach a pizza—a real, authentic pizza—with a combination of reverence, hunger and gratitude. It’s a thing.
In recent years, Colorado Springs has developed its own New York-style pizza scene. To both honor and audit the players, I gathered my snootiest, former New Yorker friends and went on a quest for the best.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that some good New York-style pizzas didn’t make it into our slice soirée. Poor Richard’s, Leon Gessi and Joey’s are all worthy. But for the sake of our stomachs, we narrowed down the competition to a fab four.
Here’s what we found:
Fat Sully’s NY Pizza
Like a superhero emerging from a phone booth, the Atomic Cowboy complex opens its New York style pizza joint, Fat Sully’s, daily at 11 a.m. There’s even a by-the-slice pick-up window open until 2 a.m.
We order a large cheese. Here, as elsewhere, we forgo toppings for the consistency and adherence to New York orthodoxy.
Our Pizza Pack, comprised of about a dozen artsy foodies, is instantly impressed by what Fat Sully’s considers a large: 26 inches—or about the size of a Buick. It’s the biggest, floppiest and thinnest pizza in town, with great bubbles in the crust and a tasty finish. Our verdict: It’s satisfying, and we love that pick-up window, but this isn’t our favorite slice.
Find It: Inside the Atomic Cowboy complex, 528 S. Tejon St., fatsullys.com
Fuhgeddaboudit! That stuff you heard about the IRS closing several Borriellos—that had to do with owners of other locations. Rob Raia’s original pizzeria on Platte Avenue, near Palmer High School, is still going strong.
When this Borriello opened in 1999, I thought, I don’t need to go back to Famous Ray’s Original to get real thin-crust pizza anymore. Now, our judges give props for the menu option (even online) for “Well done. Real New York style pizza.” Also, they note that Borriello’s $20 deal for two large, one-topping pies is among the best values in town. The thin, crunchy crust has a great texture, and even though the sauce is on the sweet side, it’s a strong contender.
Find It: 215 E. Platte Ave., borriellobrothers.com
Ruffrano’s Hell’s Kitchen
Owner Nelson Rufran once apprenticed with Russ Brunelli, owner of Hell’s Kitchen Pizza in New York City, and to me, Rufran’s pizza is pretty darned authentic. Others obviously approve, as this little Manitou gem has exploded into three locations.
Judges note the “nice glistening grease on top,” “a lovely balance of cheese and sauce” and a “great texture” that’s a bit heavier and chewier than the competitors’. They also note that it’s the most seasoned of the pies, with a good salty finish and pronounced basil or oregano notes.
Hell’s Kitchen earns runner-up status for best New York style pizza, and I’m convinced that had we broken the rules and gone for the signature Hellfire (pepperoni, hot sausage and cherry peppers), it might have won.
Find It: 9 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 1670 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 1753 S. 8th St., ruffranoshellskitchenpizza.com
Meet the winner and new champion. Our judges won’t shut up about this tiny pizzeria: “Look at that cheese and sauce glisten.” “The grease has a perfect drip.” “Really the perfect integration of cheese and sauce.” “Crust is nice and thin.” “This is a sauce with integrity. It’s savory, not at all sweet.”
This pizza is as good as any I’ve had in New York. I ask co-owner Christian Patriarca for all of his trade secrets, and he tells me, “I have no secrets. It’s just about love. Pizza is love, anyway, and that means we care about what we do. We don’t cut corners.”
It shows in the pizza, that’s for sure. Standing ovation.
Find It: 2501 W. Colorado Ave. No. 108, slice420.com
Other Primo Pizzas
Outside of the New York oeuvre, I must give a nod to some crazy good artisan pizzas in town: Pizzeria Rustica, which would be as treasured in a Tuscan hillside town as it is on Colorado Avenue; Basil & Barley, a Briargate Neapolitan pizzeria that imported its oven from Italy; and the Lincoln Center’s Nightingale Bread, whose cult-like fandom tracks every notation on Instagram to know when the saints at the ovens will grace us with the next pizza day. Also, as a New York transplant, I’m not even supposed to acknowledge the blasphemers who do that Chicago pizza thing … but the truth is that Billy’s Old World Pizza makes some fine deep dish.
All the Pizzeries…
» serve by the slice
» offer gluten-free crust
Most offer vegan pies, with the exception of Fat Sully’s, which puts dairy in its crust.