You can buy most pizzas by the slice. If you want to share a meal with family or friends, then you could purchase a whole pie or two to satisfy your hunger.
The Colorado-style pizza takes a different approach to this dining experience. Most restaurants that serve this option will charge by the pound.
That’s the only conventional approach to a style of pizza that is more of a receptacle for ingredients instead of a traditional pie.
This design is why this style of pizza has also earned the nickname of being a Colorado mountain pie. When you add its sweetened crust into the culinary mix, then you can have an entrée and a dessert with a single order.
What Is Colorado-Style Pizza?
Most pizzerias and restaurants that serve the Colorado-style pizza allow customers to choose from a wide range of ingredients to make their own pie. You can also order by the slice from a lunch menu at some locations.
Each pizzeria typically offers a signature Colorado mountain pie that is unique to their establishment.
One such example is the Firecracker pizza that you can find at the original Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs, CO. This spicy pie features fresh jalapenos, spicy chicken, ranch dressing and hot sauce. It also uses Monterey jack cheese instead of the classic mozzarella.
The crust on an authentic Colorado-style pizza is braided to help give the oversized slices loaded with ingredients more stability when lifting it to the mouth. It receives an infusion of honey. Then people in the state dunk the edge of the crust in a favorite sauce at the end of their meal for a unique dessert.
The History of Colorado-Style Pizza
Beau Jo’s pizzeria in Idaho Springs is given credit for the invention of the Colorado-style pizza. The popularity of their approach has led to the business expanding into several different communities around the state.
The first Colorado mountain pie began being delivered to customers in 1973. More than 50,000 pounds of honey are used each year when making the dough for this culinary delight, and customers have the option to drizzle their whole pizza with it if they choose.
The story of this pizza goes back to the day when Charles Shields constructed a small building in the late 19th century. It would hold a few tenants over the decades on Miner Street in the small mountain town, but the culinary scene would change when Beau Jo’s first owner bought the building.
It was a challenging first few years for the business and their new pizza creation. The owner often brought a sleeping bag to his pizzeria to sleep on the floor of the restaurant. He was eating pizza for almost every meal to save on costs.
When nearby skiers discovered his new establishment in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado-style pizza became a word-of-mouth hit. Although some of the company’s new locations have had to shut down over the years, there are a half-dozen places in the state where you can try this pie.
The outdoor experience that surrounds the Colorado-style pizza is part of the entire attraction. You can stop by your favorite pizzeria for warm food and cold beer after a long day of enjoying what the Rocky Mountains offer. Then you can go on your next adventure feeling refreshed and happy because of your dining experience.
Reasons Colorado-Style Pizza Is So Unique
When you look at the thick crust of a Colorado-style pizza, it is easy to think of it as being similar to Chicago’s deep-dish approach to making a pie. That idea receives reinforcement when you see the vast cornucopia of toppings that are available at most pizzerias.
It takes a Chicago deep-dish pizza over 40 minutes to cook because of its design. When you order a Colorado mountain pie, it only takes about ten minutes in a wood-fired oven to create culinary bliss.
Here are some of the other ways that customers appreciate the uniqueness of the Colorado-style pizza.
1. The typical serving is an eight-inch pizza.
The standard Colorado-style pizza is only eight inches in diameter. You’ll still receive a lot of toppings on that pie since it weighs an entire pound. Most restaurants will serve variations of this approach to offer two-pound, five-pound, or ten-pound versions to enjoy.
2. Honey replaces the sugar in the pizza dough.
A Colorado-style pizza doesn’t put sugar in the dough to create the chemical reactions needed for rising. Honey infusions occur instead, giving the pie a distinctive flavor. Then customers can choose to add more of it as a topping or use the sweet, sticky substance as a dunking sauce for their braided crust.
3. It still offers a crispy crust to enjoy.
The wood-fired oven that bakes the Colorado mountain pie helps it to have a crispy crust underneath the toppings. Then the braiding along the outside of each slice stays soft and chewy on the inside.
4. The ingredients on the pizza come from local sources.
When you taste the sweetness of the Colorado-style pizza, the flavor comes from locally-sourced honey in the Rocky Mountains. Many of the ingredients you can find on the toppings list come from regional producers. That means you’re receiving authentic products with your pie, and you’re helping to support small businesses at the same time.
5. A salad bar is part of the standard approach to eating.
When you decide to order a Colorado-style pizza, then the restaurant should offer a salad bar option for you to enjoy. Beau Jo’s offers a generous one with over 20 fresh selections. Then enjoy your meal with one of the state’s famous microbrews or wine from Palisade, CO, to complete the experience.
6. You can choose from several different topping arrangements.
You can make your own pizza if you want with a Colorado mountain pie. There is the option to try the local specialties if you prefer. One of the popular choices at Beau Jo’s is called the “Hipster.” It features roasted garlic and olive oil with fire-roasted peppers, mozzarella, ricotta, and spinach.
7. Customers can order a classic Margherita pizza using this approach.
Instead of a thin-crust delight, the Colorado-style approach to this classic pizza is a pie that weighs up to five pounds. It features whole-milk mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. The crust is usually made from wheat flour, but you can also sometimes order variations on the dough.
8. Gluten-free options are available.
If you have specific eating needs because of sensitivities or allergies, you can still enjoy a Colorado mountain pie at many establishments. Beau Jo’s has an entire gluten-free menu for you to enjoy, allowing you to experience the massive selection of ingredients that can go into your meal. Vegetarian pizzas are also available.
9. You can still eat slices with your hands.
The thickness of the crust and massive load of ingredients causes many people to approach their pie with a fork and knife. Because of the braiding action and wood-fired baking, you do have the option to eat with your hands.
10. Seasonal ingredients can be part of the experience.
Many people go to Beau Jo’s for their Colorado-style pizza, but locations like Hernando’s in Winter Park offer unique variations to consider. One spot in Denver uses bell pepper, ham, and onion to create a pie that has flavors like the classic omelet that shares the name of the city. You can also include game meats or infuse cannabis into your slices if you prefer.
11. The bigger pizzas are very affordable.
Most people can order a one-pound or two-pound pizza to feel satisfied. Those menu options are priced around $25 at most locations. Even if you step up to a three-pound Margherita pie in this unique style, it can be under $30.
If you have the courage to try it, Beau Jo’s offers a 14-pound pizza for you to try. This Colorado-style pizza will set you back $75, but it is free if you and one friend can finish it.
You will find a handful of pizzerias replicating this approach throughout the state. Whether you are in Grand Junction or Greeley, there is a place for you to try the Colorado mountain pie.
The pizzerias that battle with Beau Jo’s in this segment of pizza history are often small businesses with limited advertising. If you find yourself in the state, it can help to ask locals where you can pick up a Colorado mountain pie during your stay. They will point you in the right direction if an option is available.
The Colorado-style pizza comes by the pound. Once you try this approach to this classic dish, you may discover that there isn’t a better modern approach to enjoying a slice.