Denver, CO 80203
Styles of pizza: Chicago-Style stuffed crust, thin-crust “flat pies” and slices
Service: Dine-in / counter, carry-out, take home half-baked pies, delivery
Review: When Westword – our local, independent newspaper – comes out with their “Best of Denver” every year, the first thing I do is check out their various pizza picks. Since SupaCoo has already covered the pick for “best” NY-style pie for 2006, I took it upon myself to check out Beniamino’s, the “thick crust” title winner for both 2005 and 2006.
Located at the corner of Broadway and Ellsworth, Beniamino’s is in a great spot for someone who is hitting the vintage “SoBo” shops, hungry after a movie at the Mayan Theater, or stumbling through the middle of the Broadway Bar Crawl. The restaurant is clean and has an open feel, with maybe a dozen small tables sprinkled throughout. The walls display a mix of Chicago paraphernalia, local concert flyers, and modern paintings.
Ben Guest, the head honcho at Beniamino’s, will proudly let you know that he has received a bevy of “Best Thick Crust/Chicago Pizza” accolades since opening a couple of years ago. He really lights up, though, when he breaks out his 50-year-old, well-worn, deep dish pans. He credits the pans with his ability to make a true south-side Chicago pie unlike anyone else in Denver.
Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t take up Ben’s suggestion to try his favorite combo – any volunteers? – a sausage, spinach, and jalapeño-stuffed crust pie. I have previously tried his “secret recipe” spinach on a “flat pie,” and can’t honestly say I was a fan. Maybe the healthy dose of nutmeg mixes better with the heat of jalapeños. Next time perhaps…
This visit, we settled on a 14” (large) stuffed crust pie filled with veggies. The pizza arrived after the requisite 30 minute baking time in the traditional oven (no conveyor belts here). The high, golden walls of crust contained a pool of sauce that had been ladled on top of the “upper crust.” The rest of the fresh ingredients (olives, green peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms) were all safely tucked away between the top and bottom layers of crust (much like in a calzone), where they retained their moisture and mixed with a thick, soft layer of tasty mozzarella.
The sauce was slightly seasoned, tasted very fresh and “tomatoey,” and had a hint of sweetness. Ben applies the sauce on top at the beginning of the baking. This prevents the upper crust from baking to the same degree as the rest of the shell. Although I was fine with it, a couple fellow Zealots were put off by the variation in crust texture. For a moment, we were trying to determine if the gooey, unbaked top crust was actually a second layer of cheese. The sides and the bottom crust had a nice, slightly buttered flavor and were firm, evenly browned, and light in texture.
The slices of this stuffed crust za are very thick and clearly meant to at least be started with a fork. I had to argue with my full stomach to just let me finish a second piece. This 14” pie (along with some Greek salads and a few bottled microbrews) filled up 4 adults, and there were still a few slices left over for lunch the next day.
Most of us agreed that this pie deserved a “pretty good” overall rating. Clearly, it was the best true Chicago-style za we had tried in Denver…at least up to this point. A devout Zealot’s work is never done.