This uncooked pizza clearly resembles the Rocky Mountains: Mounds of cheese jut from the 18-inch crust. Their giggling creators grab more of the shredded mozzarella by the fist full and drop it like avalanches on pepperoni slices and mini meatballs.
Green stuff is conspicuously missing here. Spinach, peppers and broccoli are definitely not my kids’ palate when they have a say. But hey, how can you argue with the kings in the kitchen, because that’s really who they are tonight, even when the official name of the fun modestly tones it down as “Kids in the Kitchen.”
Located at the bottom of the American Eagle ski lift, Pizza Carlo is Copper Mountain’s only and favorite pizza restaurant — especially with children. Four evenings a week, kids get to wear a chef’s hat and apron to decorate their own personalized pie. But first, Geoff Arentz will take them on a private tour of the kitchen. Geoff is Pizza Carlo’s grown up pizza chef on duty to assist his younger colleagues tonight.
Everything seems to be bigger in a professional kitchen: The ceramic tile oven can hold up to 12 pizzas. The dishwasher looks gigantic. There is a freezer for meat, a fryer and a machine to make dough.
Children pick a ball of dough that will become their pizza crust, but leave the tossing to Alex Moinester. “Watch him closely,” whispers Geoff conspiratorially, “he is the best.” My 6-year old is mesmerized. As the pizza dances overhead, she almost twirls along.
Finally the dough has landed on a wooden board. Bring on the tomato sauce! The children sit at the counter and spoon as much of the red liquid on the pizza as they please. The sauce does not always hit its round target. Now I understand why the aprons are the same red color — makes the washing a whole lot easier.
Sitting on high bar stools, children can oversee the “hot bar” (meats) and cold bar (vegetables) from their vantage point, and may ask for any and as much of an ingredient to create their pizza as they wish. Geoff will swiftly place a bowl in front of them. And yes, noshing is OK, too. When the masterpiece is finished, it’s off to the oven and then: “Buon appetito.”
Yet the best part is still to come. Of course, there must be dessert — a dessert pizza, mind you, on a cinnamon butter glaze base, with the same fun decorating rules as above. But this time the fixings are maraschino cherries, chocolate chunks and brownie bits, sprinkles, M&M’s and marshmallows, plus whipped cream to spray and chocolate syrup to pour.
Wow! My 2-year-old stares in disbelief at the sweet stuff. He glances at me with big round eyes. Geoff Arentz knows the look. He grins and nudges me in the side as if to say: “It’s just tonight. Relax, mom.”
Well, that’s not easy. How will I know that my kids will share with me?
If You Go
Pizza Carlo is located at Copper Mountain’s Central Village in the Copper Junction building near the American Eagle lift. Their “Kids in the Kitchen” program runs Monday through Thursday during the winter season starting at 4 p.m. Cost is $65, plus tax and gratuity. This includes non-alcoholic drinks, an 18-inch pizza and dessert pizza, which is plenty for a family of four. The children will receive a chef apron, a personalized chef hat and a certification of completion. Reservations are required. 970-968-3112; coppercolorado.com