High Points: A slice of cheese, please
“I grew up on Long Island and lived in the city (that would be New York City) for 12 years, and I never had better piece of pizza than New York Pizza,” (that would be New York Pizza in Aspen) said the well-dressed woman who I met on the street this week.
Now, I would not want to argue with her pizza bona fides, nor would I want to dissuade her from her love of our local shop’s slices, but that is a pretty big declaration. Agree or disagree, I too love a slice of cheese from the genuinely authentic pizza counter up the stairs on the Hyman Avenue mall. In fact, this weekend during Food & Wine I made it my business to partake in a Saturday afternoon odyssey to leave the madding throngs behind and take the steps up for a solitary slice and a root beer. It is a habit that I have maintained for at least 25 of the Classics and it is always one of my favorite moments of the weekend.
So smitten am I with the tradition, that I have eschewed serious lunch eats at places like Casa Tua or Element 47, just to make sure I have a moment to sit at the plastic checkered tablecloth covered tables to wolf down my slice and catch some US Open golf on the ever-present televisions. It just makes me feel like a local, even in the midst of hobnobbing with the culinary icons.
It was in 1993, the year I first came to Aspen, that a couple of Louisianans decided that what Aspen needed was a by-the-slice pizza place. Earl Rodgers and Kevin Jones opened up shop and now, creeping up on three decades later, the Hyman location is still turning out what I think is the best comfort food in the valley. The “empire” expanded a dozen years ago to El Jebel and a third shop was opened earlier this year in Carbondale. I find these days that I visit Kevin’s place in El Jebel most frequently where, in addition to a pie, I can get a mac-daddy Philly steak sandwich with smoking hot and salty crinkle fries. I am also partial to the extra crispy chicken wings, sauce on the side with blue cheese, if you please.
The Carbondale NY Pizza has been jamming since it opened and though I have only been once, it seems to maintain the consistency of its upvalley brethren. In addition to that though, what makes all three locations work is the sense of community each brings to their respective communities.
In Aspen it could be seeing friends nightly when you get off your restaurant gig ‘round midnight and are craving a slice. In El Jebel it is the after-work drive time regulars who stop for a beer and sandwich on the way home. Every day. In ‘Bonedale it’s family get-togethers fueled by cheese and dough following soccer tournaments on the weekends.
The valley restaurant scene has been changing for a while, but we still need someplace to go to where we can just be with folks we know. Folks like us. Maybe that woman is right. Maybe Earl and Kevin do make the best pizza. It works for me.
For the last 35 years I’ve been covering what we call the “salmon wars” in the Pacific Northwest, writing so many stories about salmon heading toward extinction that I’ve lost count.
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