High Points: The pleasure of pizza
It was a game night (Aren’t they all?), and I had a hankering for a pizza and a beer to watch the playoffs with. I knew exactly who to call.
I came to this town in 1993, and there are precious few things around Aspen that have been staples since that first year. But New York Pizza is one of them. In a world where there is comfort in being able to count on something always being there, same as it ever was, New York Pizza fits the bill.
The first of the three New York Pizzas in the valley was launched the same year I landed here. Opened not by New Yorkers but rather by a couple of Louisiana transplants, Earl Rodgers and Kevin Jones, entrepreneurs in their early 20s, it filled a niche above the Hyman Avenue Mall for a place that was affordable and fun. They made great pizza and sold a lot of draft beer, but more importantly, they provided a hangout for the town.
Everyone goes to New York Pizza, whether the daily worker bees for lunch, the shopping crowd for an afternoon slice, or the night owls just getting off their shifts in the local restaurants in need of sustenance and a little bonding.
Over the past three decades, it has become an Aspen institution and likely has served more meals to more people than anyplace else in town. The original premise that had them staying open until 2 a.m. ensured that Aspen had an after-hours hangout that could be counted on and, in addition to late night snacks, would always have folks to hang out with.
I can’t begin to calculate how much pizza and beer that I have consumed over the years from New York Pizza, or the money that I have spent, but it is significant. Each year during the Food & Wine Classic, I make it a point to get out of the tents and stop by for a palette cleansing with a slice of pepperoni and a beer. It helps to ground me and get back to the roots a bit. And I always meet someone I have known from the past or is new to me. Either way, it’s a good thing.
In 2010, the boys from New Orleans expanded and opened their second New York Pizza in El Jebel by City Market. It has also become a community asset for the midvalley, providing families in the ever-growing community with a fast, affordable takeout place that turns out the same great pizza along with sandwiches (Ty the Philly cheese steak).
How many kids from Basalt have grown up with a pizza night from New York Pizza? This past week, Crown Park was packed with kids from near and far who had come for the lacrosse tournament. The takeout of choice? New York Pizza, of course.
While there is a markedly different vibe in El Jebel than in the Aspen location, there is still a group of locals who head in and sit around the bar, as much for the company and comradery as for the beers and slices. Each afternoon around 5, familiar faces crowd the bar and, more often than not, talk about how great a place Aspen used to be in the before days.
Now there is a third New York Pizza — in Carbondale — and it seems to fill the same niche for, once again, an ever-growing community that the El Jebel location does. It provides the comfort of comfort food at an affordable price. You always know what you are going to get.
Thirty years ago, Earl and Kevin were just trying to make it work, opening a business to support a lifestyle; but over the decades, they have provided three towns with something that they can count on. Places that feel like home.
If you need a pizza for a game night (And who doesn’t?), you know exactly who to call.