There is a pizza in this town to suit every fancy. Thick or thin, simple or complicated, multiple crusts, wheat-free crusts, gourmet or straight-forward, you can find it here.
This week I want to talk about Pizzeria Rustica in Old Colorado City. The atmosphere is lovely - with wood floors, high ceilings and brick arches in the walls, one leading to an open kitchen where the dough is stretched and baked in a wood fired oven. The servers are pleasant and friendly, the food is locally sourced as much as possible, and the pizzas won't weigh you down.
The thing to know about Pizzeria Rustica is that the menu is small and focused on top-notch ingredients served as fresh as possible and in similar flavor profiles. The space is cozy, although capacity nearly doubles when the weather permits outside seating. If you want to go on a weekend night, either call ahead for reservations or be prepared to wait.
There are four antipasti choices to whet your appetite or serve as a small meal, and all are easily made vegetarian or gluten-free. The Insalata Caprese ($8.95) is divine. Thick slices of juicy, summer-perfect tomatoes are shingled with pillowy slices of house-made mozzarella cheese and big, just-picked basil leaves, all dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and pesto. Nothing fancy, no reinvention of the wheel, just a perfect combination of hot weather flavors.
The Antipasto Misto di Giorno ($7.45 small or $13.95 large) brings an ever-changing variety on one plate. A typical offering could include sweet, oven-roasted tomatoes, tangy cornichons, marinated carrots and cauliflower, mixed olives, tiny balsamic onions, cheese-stuffed peppadew peppers, chunks of pecorino cheese, wafer thin slices of spicy fennel and black pepper salami, chunks of French bread from La Baguette, nutty and firm triangles of polenta and roasted potatoes. Decorating the top of the platter are beautifully thin slices of red and white striped Chioggia beets. The components of the plate change daily, according to what's fresh and in season.
The Flatbread Salad ($12.95) is a bit of a misnomer. It's not listed on the menu, but on the specials board every day. From the title, I thought this would be a salad served on a flatbread. Instead, it's a beautiful salad of fresh vegetables and greens served on a long white platter, accompanied by Rustica's delicious rosemary flatbread. You have a choice of eggless Caesar dressing or a very light white balsamic vinaigrette. Sounds pricy for a salad, but it can easily serve three to four people who are waiting for pizza.
And what of the pizza? The crust is thin but chewy, baked to blistered perfection in a wood-burning pizza oven. The pizzas are approximately 12 inches in diameter, topped with the fresh flavor of crushed San Marzano tomatoes rather than a heavily spiced or slow cooked sauce. And there is just enough of the sauce to give the dough the flavor of fresh tomatoes.
The rest of the toppings are similarly spare. These pizzas are about balance and flavor, not about excess. A kiss of tomato sauce, exquisitely fresh toppings and a restrained scattering of the house mozzarella make sure you can taste every component of the pizza. The downside: If you don't like one, you probably won't like any of them. The light hand with the toppings and the same crushed tomatoes as sauce on every pie means that the flavor profile just doesn't change significantly from one pizza to the next.
The Margherita ($11.95) is the essence of sweet tomato and pungent basil with the mild mozzarella. The Salumi ($12.95) tops the tomato with a few whisper-thin slices of sopressata salami and spicy fennel salami. Quattro Verdure ($12.95) includes wood-roasted red peppers and zucchini, baby black olives and red onion slivers. The Cinque Formaggi ($13.95) forgoes the tomato altogether, topping the white pizza with a combination of mozzarella, sharp provolone, gran padano (a hard cheese, similar to but milder than Parmesan) and fontina cheeses, plus roasted garlic and parsley.
Restraint is the key word, and people who think of pizza as a spicy, filling meal are likely to be disappointed. Think fresher and lighter than most traditional pizzas. Also, while the menu warns "Neapolitan pizzas are served uncut and eaten with a knife and fork," all of the pizzas we ordered were served sliced without us making any request. There is a considerable list of ingredients you can add to personalize your pizza, including fresh basil and spicy salami.
Pizzeria Rustica makes very good pizza, and I thoroughly enjoyed every variety I tasted.
It's not hard to save room for dessert here. The Chocolate Gelato ($4) is super creamy without being super sweet. As a chocoholic, the flavor wasn't quite strong enough. But the Raspberry Sorbetto ($4) focuses on the bright flavor of the berries rather than drowning them in sugar.
The Spumoni Gelato with a balsamic fig glaze ($5.50) was a little disappointing. The "hint" of dried cherries and nuts was lost in the mix, and the balsamic glaze was just too tart and too strange for the sweet confection.
Restaurant character: Cozy, friendly and welcoming, with good food and fast service. Somewhat pricey pizza with a minimalist bent, focusing on bright, fresh, local ingredients. Excellent antipasti but only adequate desserts.
Rating total: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Value for the money: 3 out of 5 stars
Address: 2527 W. Colorado Ave.
Contact: 632-8121, pizzeriarustica.com
Hours: Noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Everything on the menu can be made without meat
As of Aug. 6:
- 86 percent of 346 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
- 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 53 reviews on Yelp
- Active on Facebook; search "Pizzeria Rustica"
- No violations requiring follow-up were marked during a May inspection by the El Paso County Health Department.