This is the sort of place you’d find in the Northeast,” declared Kurt, a Massachusetts transplant, as we took our seats inside Lefty’s Gourmet Pizza and Ice Cream. We had been bicycling for the last few hours on the back roads north of Boulder when this homey Niwot eatery beckoned. Lefty’s is housed in a quaint vintage cottage perfumed with a pungent but pleasing garlic aroma, an ambience that Kurt deemed typical of the pizza parlors of his youth.
The resemblance to New England establishments also extends to the menu. The bill of fare here consists of the expected pizza, as well as subs, calzones and pasta plates, including the requisite baked ziti. The salads range from a basic garden to a protein-rich chicken and bacon, loaded up with cheddar, onions, cucumbers, mushrooms, red peppers and tomato. For dessert, there’s Boulder brand ice cream available in pints and cones, and, perhaps most importantly, in the form of shakes, sundaes and malts.
Kurt methodically pointed out the subtle but telling differences between Lefty’s pizza menu and that of a typical East Coast operation. Where a New England place might only offer a choice between traditional red and barbecue sauce, Lefty’s serves these and five others, including ranch and pesto varieties. Others may only offer thick and thin crusts, but this Niwot enterprise features five styles, including multi-grain and a 12-inch, gluten-free number.
A dozen toppings would be a lot in New England, but here there are more than 40, including such esoteric choices as white fish, goat cheese and scallops. Of course, the usual suspects, like pepperoni, mushrooms and mozzarella, are all available to delight the traditionalist. House special pies run the gamut from olive oil and garlic sauced meatless options to the delightfully named Craig’s Cardiac Arrest, con sisting of pepperoni, ham, sausage and bacon.
Medical professional Kurt avoided this selection, opting instead for a 12-inch Sarah’s Special pie for $14.50, a decidedly Boulder County choice. Topped with garlic and olive oil sauce, chicken, broccoli, tomatoes and basil, this was lighter and healthier than your typical sauce-pepperoni-and-cheese option. Built on a slightly bready but nicely thin crust, each ingredient stood out on its own with clean flavor and texture. The broccoli was crisp-tender, with the chicken complementing the more pungent qualities of garlic and basil.
Seeking carb replenishment, my entrée was a modestly sized $6.50 plate of spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread. While it looked a bit on the smallish side at first, this dish nevertheless satisfied my hunger. The ribbon shape of the spaghetti was softer than a rounder version would have been, but the full-bodied and tangy marinara hit the spot. While the meatballs could have done with less salt, they still had the pleasantly complex flavor that only comes from having a balanced mixture of meat. Buttery slices of garlic bread wrapped up in foil hit the comfort food mark by virtue of their rich and warming qualities.
Lefty’s will be a repeat stop during future bicycle sojourns. The pasta prices are reasonable, and while a pizza may be cheaper at a chain, there’s usually a special deal that you can find at leftysgourmetpizza.com.
It’s also good for East Coast exiles. Kurt’s final verdict? “It’s better than your average New England pizza place.”
Clay’s Obscurity Corner A fish story
Lefty’s features one of my favorite pizza toppings, the love-itor-hate-it anchovy. But how did the anchovy, which generally doesn’t appear elsewhere in American cooking, become a pie staple? Most consider Naples the ancestral home of pizza, and this city also happens to be a coastal settlement with a storied fishing industry. Also, pizza originated there as a working-class food. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see how a resourceful angler or baker came up with the combination of a protein-rich commodity fish with the filling dough of this savory pie.
Pizza and Ice Cream 364 2nd Ave., Niwot 303-652-3100