Finding exceptional food in cities full of options is difficult. I’ve been unimpressed frequently when visiting restaurants I’ve spontaneously ‘Googled’ in Metro Denver. I have also found many restaurants that I like after a quick internet search.
Now and then I walk into a restaurant without reading reviews and don’t know what to expect. For instance I frequently commute Federal Boulevard in Denver and I noticed a ‘sports bar’ called Roosters with a brightly lit sign which advertised that I could watch Nuggets games on their numerous hi-def screens. I thought Roosters might be a great place to watch games with my wife and other sports fans. We walked into the eatery during a Nuggets game and instead of a sports bar, I found that Roosters was primarily a biker bar, and nothing resembling hoops was on the televisions. Everyone in the ‘sports bar’ was wearing leather and we weren’t. We got a few stares, and were quite honestly a little afraid.
Fortunately, we ended up finding a hidden gem in Lakewood’s, Belmar neighborhood called Bakers Street Pub and Grill which wasn’t solely a sports bar, but ‘Bakers Street’ provided comfortable viewing of Nuggets games on a large projector screen. We found Baker’s Street Pub without reading online reviews as well. At Baker’s Street we had a great time watching playoff games surrounded by energetic Lakers and Nuggets fans that were jeering referee calls and cheering for their respective teams while eating Irish Pub fare and sipping a cold drink. We had a blast. After visiting Bakers Street without reviewer advice, I’m completely comfortable walking into a new restaurant without consulting online suggestions first.
So when driving North on Federal not long ago, I noticed that Rooster’s was closed, and a new place Rica Pizza opened up a few blocks South from where Rooster’s was. Rica Pizza is located in a mostly unoccupied building in Federal Heights. I like to explore foods, but Rica Pizza was in a location that didn’t look appealing. I received numerous ads in the mail from the pizzeria which advertised Mexican style pizzas. After reading the ads I still wasn’t convinced that a good restaurant could be located in an area with so little to offer. If Rica Pizza was located in the more visible and modern looking building that Rooster’s was in I probably wouldn’t have been as skeptical about trying their food. First impression is as important for restaurants as it is for people sometimes.
Then one day after I worked late, my wife and I determined that it was too late to try to prepare dinner. Usually a Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza with jalapeños satisfies on nights when we don’t cook. If we were going to have a spicy jalapeño pizza at Little Caesars we decided why not try Rica Pizza. So instead of delivery, I decided to drive to Rica Pizza, see the establishment in person, and try their Mexican style pizza pies.
Upon walking into Rica Pizza I immediately noticed the lobby and dinning areas of the pizzeria were very clean. The pizzas in the ovens smelled great, and because scent is so closely related to taste, my hesitation was eased.
Rica Pizzas topping selection is vast, ranging from all the traditional Italian offerings to Mexican standards. Their specialty pizzas are original and intriguing. Rica serves a Fajita Pizza, Taco Supreme Pizza, Chicken Enchilada Pizza, and a pizza dubiously titled the ‘Carne Crusade’. I ordered two pizzas, our standard hand tossed pepperoni and jalapeño pizza, and at the recommendation of the owner I bought their deep dish ‘Chilanga Pizza’. I waited maybe twenty minutes in their lobby until the pizzas were done. The owner opened each box and showed me each pizza so I could see what I was getting before sending them home with me. I felt like a new parent or maybe even a fine jewelry inspector. The pizza’s looked great.
Back at home my wife and I enjoyed both Pizzas with a Mexican beer ‘Corona’. The Chilanga pizza was extravagantly topped with ham, chorizo, large pineapple chunks, chipotle sauce, and a healthy layer of cheese. The Chilanga was a refreshing deviation from the usual Italian toppings and sauce, which for pizza lovers can be so difficult to break from. The deep dish dough was also enjoyable, it’s soft on the inside and delicately crispy on the outside. The deep dish was wonderful, although I prefer thinner crusts over deep dish.
The basic hand-tossed pepperoni and jalapeño custom pizza was also loaded with toppings. I enjoyed every bite and so did my wife. Surprisingly Rica Pizza is a far better than national chain pizza. At Rica you’ll find better topping choices and quality. The pizza ranks among the best in Metro Denver and maybe even Colorado. Currently, they are probably fifth on my list in Denver. Rica’s brand is good enough to last generations like Denver’s own 40 year old New York style ‘Famous Pizza’. But the restaurant must develop a ‘fan base’ of loyal customers.
Rica Pizza’s Mexican Style creativity in pizza choices establishes them as a Colorado ‘original’ along the lines of other popular Colorado grown pizza chains. While Rica Pizza has a long way to be as successful as Famous Pizza or Beau Jo’s, there is certainly potential to grow. I just hope food seekers can find their location, which is far from where most people look for exceptional food. Finding good food in Denver often requires just giving a restaurant a try.
RICA PIZZA 8868 N. Federal Blvd. Suite 16A, Federal Heights, CO 80260 (303) 900-4102
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