After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
The staff at StevO's Pizza and Ribs doesn't waste time with maitre d's, valet parking, or by throwing away perfectly good clocks. They don't spurn these luxuries out of a lack of care for their customers, however; they feel time is better spent hand-tossing fresh pizza dough, feeding it into old-style deck ovens, and smoking fall-off-the-bone ribs and brisket over heaping piles of black walnut and oak. By putting their energy and resourcefulness into preparations and an emphasis on quality ingredients, chefs ensure each pie arrives fresh and bearing deliciously diverse toppings. They slather the pizzas with enhancements that range from traditional—bacon, broccoli, jalapeños—to exotic—mandarin oranges, mac 'n' cheese, peanut butter and jelly. Additionally, the pizza artists nail freshness by never weighing down pies with preservatives or artificial flavors.
At Legends of Aurora, philly cheesesteak could mean a traditional sandwich, a pizza, or a 24-inch sub food challenge. For more than 20 years, Legends of Aurora‘s hand-tossed pizza dough has formed the foundation for this and other pies, including the supreme and the White pizza, a sauceless number with cheese and tomato slices. And though their patrons order enough pizzas each year to pave a route from Peoria to Buckley, they somehow find time to nosh on pepperoni pizza rolls, Rocky Mountain oysters, calzones, chimichangas, salad, and wings as well.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro, named Best Italian in 2011 on Denver's 7 A-List, lures hungry passersby with a menu of Windy City–style Italian fare, more than 20 wines by the glass, and complimentary ciabatta bread with saucy marinara. The owners, a family of Chicago natives, dedicated Nonna's to their grandmother, whose passion for hearty, homestyle fare inspired their chefs to perfect such classics as chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and slow-cooked, Chicago-style ribs. Dinners pair with a glass of Italian Da Vinci chianti or a Californian 181 merlot, or assorted well drinks and domestic brews from the exposed-brick bar.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro's dining room provides guests with an elegant eating coliseum, boasting walls painted with grapevine designs and windows that welcome a breathtaking view of the Leaning Tower of Willis. The quaint eatery also fills ear canals with live music performed by jazz trios, classical guitarists, and country crooners on weekend evenings.
Starting at 5 p.m. each day, members of the Gilhooly family begin twirling doughy disks high in the air. These stewards of Oblio's Pizzeria then flick their creations into the oven and watch as the almost-tangible heat forms a 3-D platter complete with cheese, tomato sauce, and a bounty of toppings. Customizable pizzas come with one of three types of sauce—tomato, seasoned olive oil, or barbecue—and any of 23 available toppings, including canadian bacon, banana peppers, and salami. Specialty pies combine these treats into themed meals; the Giovanni features five meats, the Berkeley Blues has bountiful veggies, and the Santa Cruizin’ boasts Cali-inspired artichoke hearts and minced garlic. Patrons can watch all the action unfold, ogling their pies, lasagna, or meatball sandwiches as they take shape within the open kitchen. Those content with a little surprise can leave the cooking to the Gilhoolys and decamp to the sunny patio or sip luscious nectars from the vino bar as they wait.