I'm picky about pizza, but then again when I'm craving a slice almost anything will do. I love deep dish Chicago-style of course, and even that thin greasy stuff they fold in half in places like New York. The best pizza I've had was at a place called Dar Poeta somewhere in the twisted maze of cobblestones of Trastevere, Rome. Denver has some great pies and although I haven't written about any yet, I like just about all of it: from Famous Pizza on Broadway to East Colfax's Enzo's to Basil Doc's and even that fancy stuff at Marco's.
My last pizza experience came during our recent trip to Salida. If you've ever been there on a weekend night in the summer, you will know that Amicas is the place to be. I lived in Salida for a summer and never actually went, partly because of its popularity-- the wait is upwards of an hour on weekend nights-- but mostly because I was broke and not making any money. When talk of Amicas would come up, the locals start drooling and make sweeping statements of a generalized nature (I can respect that) like, "It's the best pizza I've ever had."
That always made me skeptical, "In Salida," I would add when they said this, hoping to clarify their enthusiasm with a minor qualification.
"No," they would swear, "Ever."
When I returned to Salida a few weeks ago and happened by Amicas, my wife and I were famished, and handmade, wood-fired pizza sounded perfect. It was almost 8pm and the wait was an hour and a half. Yikes. Luckily they had pagers that worked all over town, so we set out to see some galleries and wander the lovely Salida streets in the meantime.
We came back an hour later and ordered some beers. Our hostess found us and said something to the effect of us needing to figure out what we wanted because our table was almost ready. "Sure," I thought to myself, thinking she thought we were sick of waiting and wanted to order as soon as possible. But we were in no hurry, so I settled into my barstool to enjoy a fine brown ale (brewed in-house) and gaze out the window at the summer twilight hues. Her hurried (though very friendly) demeanor seemed a little contrasted with the mellow Dead bootleg playing over the speakers. "Whatever," I thought.
Then the confusion, bizzaro-world antics of Amicas started. Amicas is one of those sit-down, table service restaurants where you order first and then pay before you eat. My wife, of course, had taken the words literally and had picked out her order from the big menu on the wall behind my big head. She placed her order at the register and looked to me. I was the clueless new-guy who fouled up the whole process, taking several awkward minutes of hemming and hawing to decide, monkey-wrenching the otherwise efficient flow of this insanely busy night. But to everyone's credit, no one seemed to care in the least.
Then, meal pre-paid and receipt in hand, we were seated in front of an incredible elfin mural that I won't even try to describe:
Then we ate a delicious Caesar Salad with lovely anchovies. I like when restaurants dare to put anchovies on plates. We should all eat more of these fun little fish.
And a fabulous bowl of homemade carrot-ginger soup with baby spinach. This was easily the highlight of the night. The soup was vibrantly fresh and perfectly seasoned; the strong ginger flavor was nicely balanced by the sweet carrot, and it was slightly creamy but still light. Delicious.
Then the pizza. In the end we ordered a large pizza with plenty of cured meats and sausage. It was thin, crispy, the cheese was browned and the crust had a delicious char. I ate most of it and was a little ill in the end, but liked every bite of it. Was it the best pizza ever? Of course it wasn't, but it was very good and in Salida I would wait an hour for it again and again.
The best part of the night was the bomber of Green Chile Ale that I put down with my pizza. Not only did it go incredibly well with the pie, but it really somehow tasted like fresh-roasted green chiles. And while that might not sound great (I was skeptical but far too curious to not try it), it was actually perfectly done. The crisp, refreshing ale slowly transitioned to the smoky green chile and then finished with a mild tinge of spice. It was at once two distinct tastes and experiences but somehow blended together perfectly. And as a bonus they even bothered to spell "Chile" correctly (not Chili).
The bottom line: Amicas of Salida, CO is a good place to get a good pizza and good beer.
Photos: All aboard for the restaurants of Union Station
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