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Barbecue chicken, caramelized onions — and more

As noted in the companion Apple Valley Cider write-up, Penrose Pizzeria & Pub is just next door, serving its own dining room plus takeout orders into the cidery, which provides some ciders as well for PP&P’s taps. The place reads like a roadside café and bar wrapped into one: less sports bar (despite a giant TV over the bar) and more family-friendly, small-town eatery with no pretension but a modest craft vibe.

We’re told the pizzeria’s just over a year old, opened by a local family and chef who gleaned fine-dining experience working in California wine country. Our tasting host over at the cidery strongly recommends that we try one of her favorite items off PP&P’s menu, the gourmet mushroom pizza, and since she said everything’s legit good, we decide for ourselves on ordering the bbq chicken sandwich.

It’s worth noting that even without her talk-up of the fare, the menu reads quite alluring with some interesting epicurean touches I certainly wouldn’t expect from little old Penrose, Colorado; it’s clear something’s different here. A note online highlights house-smoked and -ground meats and all sauces and dips made in-house. 

To the pies first, our bartender, who takes our to-go order, says the pizza dough gets cold fermented for three days, which explains the phenomenal crust we’re about to encounter, all puffy and airy and crisp on the outside but soft and chewy on the interior, with a perfect, subtle salt kick. The pie holds a roasted garlic purée for its sauce, a bounty of chewy, poppin’ shroom slivers,  and gets finished with truffle oil and a tangly array of arugula leaves that have been tossed in a lemon vinaigrette with honey.

If you’re paying attention, that’s your earthy umami, garlic sharpness, truffle funk, arugula pepperiness, citrus and vinegar acidity and a sweet honey note: a lot of smart flavor building and layering. This is holy shit-good pizza, worth a drive. Check out the “chalkboard” menu section of customer-conceived ’zas from the build-your-own section; it says “if the pizza you create is awesome, we’ll add it here.”

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About that sandwich, the made-in-house bread promoted on all the sandwiches is actually the same pizza dough cut and shaped differently. It blisters in little browned pockets and chews as gloriously as it does on the pies; don’t think of a calzone, it’s more like sandwich bread.

It’s also sturdy enough to contain a heap of ingredients: tangy pulled, roasted barbecue chicken, sweet caramelized onions, fatty little bacon bits and crispy fried chicken skins, tart, crunchy, pickled cabbage and sharp green onion bits, plus shaved Parmesan and a creamy, zingy garlic aioli. Again with the mindful taste layering: kick-ass. This introductory sampling has me wanting to come back for more for sure.

Food & Drink Editor

Matthew Schniper is the Food and Drink Editor at the Colorado Springs Indy. He began freelancing with the Indy in mid-2004 and joined full-time in early 2006, contributing arts, food, environmental and feature writing.

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