We can’t acknowledge High Rise Pizza Kitchen without recognizing the circumstances that led to its opening, so let’s rip that Band-Aid off right now. It opened in Delmonico Square, the Rockrimmon shopping center that had previously held Colorado Crust Pizza Company.
Colorado Crust was owned by Andrew Oliver, son of Oliver’s Delicatessen owners Betsy and Michael. Tragically, Andrew passed away in April of 2021, and his parents made the choice to close Colorado Crust. Following this, local chef/fine dining wunderkind Ben Hoffer conceptualized a new pizzeria in the same spot, eventually opening High Rise on Aug. 18.
Hoffer has been a chef in town for 23 years, ever since graduating from culinary school, but High Rise marks his first endeavor as a chef/owner. He spent 10 years working at the storied Craftwood Inn, working his way up from dish washer to executive chef. Locals may also know him for his work with Altitude Hospitality Group’s properties, such as The Pinery at the Hill, Till Kitchen, Sprig and Garden of the Gods Market and Café.
“The past two years, I was in food distribution… I was selling [Betsy Oliver] groceries for the deli. Then Andrew came in one day and said he was going to open a pizza shop,” says Hoffer. “I inserted myself into the conversation…. We got to talking, and he asked me to kind of consult with him, and I wrote his recipes and his menu for him… Over the two years, we became fast friends.”
That explains why some elements have remained the same between the two businesses. It was Hoffer’s crust recipe that wowed us at Colorado Crust when we first reviewed it, and in addition two-thirds of High Rise’s staff worked there. However, the menu’s been changed and pared down pretty substantially, focusing on different topping combinations and a smaller selection of appetizers.
The baseball-sized meatballs have a soft, somewhat loose texture that a fork will just about drop through. They’re packed with Italian herbs, onions and red pepper, to name a few standouts, and between being perfectly salted and sauced with marinara in a way that only adds to the meaty savoriness, we thoroughly enjoy every bite. Garlic knots, too, rate stellar, though their presence, much like the simple meatball appetizer, sets certain expectations of New York-ian orthodoxy that the rest of High Rise’s menu doesn’t hold itself to.
On to pizzas, which shock with price ($19.50 to $24 for on-menu options when we visit) but satisfy with size (a mighty 16 inches across; a pie and a half fed four stoned adults): As said before, the crust we loved from Colorado Crust has remained excellent, and the Pig Newton’s mix of big Calabrian peppers, bacon, prosciutto and fig jam that defines the flavor is, frankly, a work of art, and saucing it with garlic-infused olive oil only deepens the pleasure. Now, granted, the website lists this pizza as having gorgonzola and roasted tomatoes as well, and we detect neither, though the online menu was out of date in other ways as of Sept. 20. But with the flavor and spice heat of those peppers, and how they play with two kinds of cured pig and sweet-tangy fig jam, we can’t say we mind.
The Amazing Anu, a veggie pizza, catches our eye with pistachio pesto leading the menu description. It’s subtle, the pistachio adding a nuttiness and depth without upstaging the other ingredients in the pesto or on the pizza. Roasted tomatoes and red peppers grant this pie a brightness that red onion, feta, spinach and artichoke hearts dance with elegantly. We order a build-your-own pizza as well. Our mushroom, spinach and artichoke heart ’za comes with red sauce instead of requested white sauce and no artichoke hearts, an error that High Rise’s staff remedies with swiftness and grace.
Between the appetizers, the pizza sizes (available by the slice at lunch) and the changed menu, we think High Rise stands apart from Colorado Crust, not a sad shadow but a meritorious pizzeria in its own right.