Authentic New York pizza and Colorado aren’t exactly synonymous. The Centennial State can fire up a killer lamb dish, but its pizza quality generally leaves something to be desired.
Except when a true connoisseur with a New York restaurant pedigree comes to town to open up shop. That’s the case of Keith Arnold, a Queens native who moved west with his young family eight years ago to found Garlic Knot, an authentic Big Apple Italian joint that serves, you guessed it, authentic New York-style pizza.
“I am very much a food snob, and our pizza is exactly what it's supposed to be,” Arnold says. “I worked in a million Italian restaurants in New York, and all the recipes are ones we’ve used (there.)"
Okay, he might be exaggerating his resume just a bit when he talks about his New York past. But, despite being nearly a decade removed from the world’s pizza mecca, he can still ring off a dozen top pizza joints, by borough, to prove he does know what he’s talking about.
Which is part of the reason his co-investors sent him west to open the first Garlic Knot at Ken Caryl, a local chain that now boasts five Front Range locations. (It’s named after the tasting garlic bread bites traditionally made from scrap pizza dough).
Arnold jumped at the chance to be the instate owner/investor (he runs the original in Ken Caryl and the Roxborough Littleton location), in large part to have his young family grow up in the wide-open spaces of Colorado instead of the congested concrete jungle of Queens.
It’s been a good life choice, but he hasn’t forgotten the simple lessons learned from growing up in Queens. And if you ask him, making good pie — in New York or Littleton — comes down to one thing: ingredients.
He shaves cheese fresh, finds the best products to produce the dough, and doesn’t skimp on meats and veggies.
Oh, he doesn’t buy the water thing (as in there’s something in the New York water that makes better crust). He’s even had a conversation with a Denver Water rep who says the minerality in the Mile High City is comparable to the Big Apple.
To see what he is talking about, follow Arnold's simple test for good pizza (at Garlic Knot or anywhere else): Order a slice of plain pizza (that’s what those on the Eastern seaboard call cheese).
“There’s nothing hiding the flavor. If you can’t make a good cheese pizza, you are just faking it,” Arnold says. “Just try the Neapolitan cheese pizza. That’s the benchmark."
We offer one other test: See how well it tastes with wine (we have a one-track mind at this Denver urban winery). As luck would have it, Garlic Knot serves Vinny No Neck, a a Sangiovese heavy blend, out of a keg (Ken Caryl and University Hills locations).
Arnold says Vinny pairs with all his simple Italian dishes, but life doesn’t get much better than a slice and a glass of Vinny.
“That wine goes excellent with any red sauce pizza,” Arnold says. “I tell people the story about Paul and about his grandfather’s Italian heritage. I pitch it to everybody because I like a local product … it’s like a New York experience where they bring an authentic food culture to a restaurant.”
Visit the Garlic Knot and order a glass of Vinny:
- Garlic Knot Ken Caryl, 10143 West Chatfield Ave., Littleton. 720-922-2060
- Garlic Knot University Hills, 2553 South Colorado Blvd. Denver. 720-542-3528