Pizza in Lakewood

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When I've moved to a new place, one of the first things I do is try out all the pizza places until I discover one that's really good. I've lived in rural places where the locals are still trying to find a good pizza. When Virgilio Urbano moved to Lakewood he went out looking for a good pizza and ended up having to figure out how to make his own.

Luckily for us tonight, we stumbled out of the Lakewood Cultural Center with a bunch of friends looking for a glass of wine and a place to talk a little and landed in Urbano's restaurant aptly called Virgilio's (S.W. corner of Alameda and Wadsworth).

Can you make a New York style pizza without New York City water? Tom asked. Sure, said Urbano, but most guys start a restaurant with the recipe they stole from somebody's restaurant in New York and don't change it to account for the water they've got. Yeast is a live thing, and you can kill it was highly chlorinated water, he said. Lakewood city water, luckily works just fine. What makes his crust so thin, crispy and well, perfectly textured, is the fact that Virgilio's uses very little yeast proportionately to the flour: 1 oz of live yeast to 50 lbs of white flour.  And then he lets the dough rise for a long time. "We never use dough the same day we make it," he said.

Julia Child says the same thing in her baguette recipe. Long, long rising times. It give the dough a change to develop flavor. And like Julia Child, Urbano made pounds and pounds of bad pizza dough before he figured out how to make it. When he moved to Denver, desperate for a good pizza, he started experimenting, and through out so much dough that it blew the lid off the trash can rising.

Luckily, it's a 15 minute drive from in-town Denver, 40 minutes for our friends from Boulder, to a great New York pizza.  The regular cheese pizza is a great opportunity to revel in the crust, but the Margherita, with Virgilio's homemade mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, is irresistible -- even to a bunch of people who'd already had dinner.

The wine's decent and not marked up like other places. For under $50 we had a huge family pizza and a bottle of wine.

I can't remember exactly what he said when Urbano told us it was his first restaurant because I was testing his dough in some garlic knots I was enjoying as a teaser, but the gist was: He's not a chef, didn't go to culinary school, just knows what tastes good because his mother made it for him, and that's what he wants to eat. Since he can't get his mother's cooking, he learned to make it himself, and now he's sharing it with us.


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