Via Baci: Now Thatsa Pizza!

thatsa pizza“I need to go to Lone Tree,” I tell my friend Larry, who also happens to be the ideal dining companion. He’ll eat anything once, which pleases me to no end.

At the mention of Lone Tree, however, he unleashes that predictable scant of skepticism inherent to urbanites living in citified high-rise apartments. I am undeterred. “I hear there’s a terrific new pizza place in Lone Tree. We’re going.” I quickly add that lunch is on me. Money talks.

Lone Tree’s Via Baci, south of Denver, is worth the drive for skeptical citified urbanites.

En route to Via Baci, Larry and I debate — as thousands have done before us — the specifics of the quintessential pizza. Thin crust or thick? New York style or Chicago? Wood-fired brick ovens or gas-burning? Traditional toppings or designer? Slices or squares? We’re still arguing as we drive around the parking lot looking for the entrance, which, incidentally, faces a goliath-sized Super Target.

Via Baci, it turns out, nourishes its patrons with Neapolitan pizza. According to the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Politics, the apparent equivalent of Italy’s pizza police, there are rigid rules surrounding a true Neapolitan pizza. It must be perfectly round, no more than 13¾ inches in diameter, and the center (where everything eventually puddles), less than a 10th of an inch high. Thinking of asking for pepperoni? In Italy, that would get you a pizza piled with bell peppers. Nonetheless, I’m sure some of you are peddling pepperoni in your mouth right now.

Fine with me. I like pepperoni as much as the next person. And at Via Baci, the ubiquitous topping is prominently placed on myriad pies, which proves that while this pizza palace mostly adheres to the strict Neapolitan pizza guidelines imposed by those stringent Italian legislators, it’s not so smug that it alienates traditionalists.

Other things you should know about Via Baci: It serves whole pies, not slices; the pizzas arrive in minutes, all charred and blistered from the 750-degree wood-fired oven; and the hand-pressed crust is impossibly thin, soft to the touch and lips, and mostly chewy and elastic — except for that crucial point where the pointed slices meet in the middle (more on that later).

The menu claims that Neapolitan pizza is “fast, like an Italian sports car.” On my first visit here, it took exactly 7 minutes and 39 seconds for my Genovese pizza to appear on the glossy, light-wooded table, too hot to eat. Not exactly Ferrari speed, but better than a Ford Pinto. I watched intently as the white-jacketed cook behind the gleaming open kitchen pounded out the ball of dough and flattened it into a near-perfect round disc, using only his palms. The pizzas are then clothed with toppings and slid into the hive-shaped oven crackling with the amber glow of firewood.

Via Baci serves 15 pizza variations. The margherita pies benefit from a swathe of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and the bianco pizzas arrive adorned with olive oil strewn with fresh herbs and garlic. Housemade mozzarella — mellow, creamy and slightly springy — oozes on every pizza. It also appears in the Caprese salad, alongside fruity tomatoes, baby arugula, basil and a romp of mixed lettuces drizzled with a tart balsamic vinaigrette.

My hands-down favorite pizza is the Quattro Formaggio, a white pie bubbling with provolone, goat cheese, mozzarella and gorgonzola. Of the six pizzas I sampled, this is the only one that didn’t suffer from the dreaded droop syndrome that afflicts pizzas at the point of intersection.

“Caution!” the menu warns. This is “civilized pizza — knife and fork required.”

“Caution!” the menu warns. This is “civilized pizza — knife and fork required.” As wholly un-American as this is, I suggest you heed this advice unless you want your salami, capers and baby clams to land in a pile on your plate. The ingredients, however, are undeniably superb, which makes enjoying Via Baci’s pizzas eminently easy: wonderfully salty Mediterranean black and green olives, marinated white anchovies, perky pear tomatoes, fennel-specked sausage, earthy crimini mushrooms, and fragrant fresh herbs.

Occasionally, the pizzas are just plain silly, as evidenced by a ludicrously volcanic mound of arugula mounted on the crust of a pie deemed prosciutto e rucola. Unwieldy whole tarps of prosciutto trap the leaves, and I’m entirely convinced that the pizza’s punch line — uncooked pear tomato halves — will roll like marbles with the slightest poke from my fork.

While Via Baci prides itself on using the “highest quality imported ingredients,” no desserts are made in-house. I find that perplexing, especially considering that some of the most delicious confections are comprised of pizza dough.

I’m sure they’re just awaiting permission from the higher-ups in Naples. When the call comes, may I suggest doughnuts?

If You Go

Via Baci
10005 Commons St., #200
Lone Tree, Colorado 80124
303-790-0828
www.viabaci.com

Lori Midson, Colorado AvidGolfer’s restaurant critic (www.coloradoavidgolfer.com), makes a career out of wining and dining her away around Denver, where she lives, a city ripe with culinary surprises. She is a frequent contributor to Sunset and CITY, the local editor of numerous Zagat Surveys, and the Denver dining writer for AOL CityGuide. Midson, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism, has also written for other publications including 5280 magazine, Executive Travel and EnCompass.

From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.

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