For the first pizzeria owners Lindsay and Chris Lyons, the last two and a half years have been a wild ride, and more.
In 2018, and within a week of getting married, the couple took over Deli Italia from Lakewood with a plan to convert it into a full-fledged restaurant.
A little over a year later, they found out they were pregnant. And less than six months later, Deli Italia had to close due to the pandemic. When it reopened, the Lyons were about to become parents to Leopold, their first child.
“The deli was, in a way, our baby too,” said Lindsay. “We immediately fell in love with the potential of the place … (and thought), let’s just take it and work hard and make it ours.”
When you go
Deli Italia is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Sundays). Call 303-248-7208 or visit deliitaliapizzeria.com for more information.
Now that the pandemic restrictions are lifted and customers continue to find the pizzeria – up close in the neighborhood, from across town through word of mouth, even from chefs in other restaurants – the pizzeria is picking up pace.
“We don’t have a marketing budget, we don’t have anyone to manage our Instagram,” said Lindsay. “To be honest, organic growth was the best we could have asked for.”
When Lindsay and Chris first met in Colorado Springs, she learned that he was both a cook and a perfectionist.
Chris had a molecular catering set in his kitchen cupboard, referring to episodes of “Chef’s Table” in early conversations, and invariably making condiments and sauces on nights when she just wanted a quick dinner.
“He’s always had this passion and this perfectionism with his food,” said Lindsay. Despite working in the defense sector at the time, Chris grew up in restaurants. Lindsay, for her part, worked in them for extra cash while teaching high school English.
“We definitely shared our love for good food. When we were planning our wedding, we thought we should do that, ”said Lindsay of opening a restaurant. And the plan quickly became a reality.
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The Lyons moved to Denver and bought the three-decade-old Italian deli from Robert Boffa, who had taken it over from founder Ricardo Pacini before him.
“It took a lot for us to let people know that we were doing everything from scratch and that we had changed the recipes,” said Lindsay. “We wanted it to be food that we feed our families on and food that we stand behind.”
Most notable was the pizza dough, which Chris perfected late into the night. He grew up partly in New York while Lindsay is from Boston.
“I grew up in Massachusetts and I definitely have opinions, and so does he,” she said, adding, “The dough was a love job and the sauce is from the ground up.”
The resulting cake is an east coast hybrid with a thin and crispy crust. It’s more artisanal than late at night, but with enough fat and wrinkles not to be too trendy.
“We have a lot of people from New Jersey and Philadelphia who say it’s like New Haven style, added Lindsay, although she wouldn’t call it that. Her favorite pies are the sausage & ricotta and the new Specktacular with a white sauce base, bacon, peperoncini and spinach.
If you drop in on any day (note they close early), you’ll find Chris and his pizzaiolos that make dough for 9-inch (9.99-13.99 USD) and 14-inch -Toss cake ($ 14.99 – $ 18.99). Lindsay says they sell as many submarines as pizzas in one day. But they also make salads, meatballs, and cannoli.
And when asked if they want to expand the business to a second location (maybe in Denver), Lindsay laughs – between her two newborns: “We’re only trying to sleep at night,” she said.
But in memory of the pizza baker’s family, they are planning another move: By summer, the company will be renamed from Deli Italia to Leopold’s in honor of their 8-month-old son.
It’s a bold decision after winning, or almost winning, the title of Best Pizza in Denver by its current name. But the Lyons have a vision that brought them here.
“We just have to keep going and stay focused,” said Lindsay. “We feel like the very big outsider.”
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