Justin Vogel’s dream of owning a pizzeria started in the most obvious of places — the oil and gas fields near Grand Junction.
That’s where the Colorado native met New Jersey guy Mark Eskow. The two toiled in the fields together — “it was manual labor, to say the least,” Vogel says. — before deciding that digging in the dirt just wasn’t their thing.
“I got into the (oil and gas) industry with the intention of making enough money to do something for myself,” Vogel says. “I just knew I wanted to do something else.”
So, they decided to go into the pizza business. Right Coast Pizza‘s doors opened in the spring of 2012, creating a neighborhood-focused eatery off of 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge.
Eskow brought his unique insight of how to make true East Coast pizza, and Vogel a long history, pre-oil, of working in bars and restaurants.
They also have carried in a little bit of controversy to their pizza shop. While Right Coast is an obvious reference to its East Coast origins, most think New York when talking pizza.
But this is a New Jersey joint.
Through several trips with Eskow to both the Garden and Empire states, Vogel become convinced New Jersey is the better pizza state. The style has a similar thin-crust, fork-free slice that is expected from the New York moniker, but Jersey pie is “better quality, better sauce, higher quality cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take New York pizza any day, but…
“New Jersey makes better pizza.”
Those are fightin’ words if you’re from Brooklyn, but Right Coast has backed it up so far in its first year in business. The locals have flocked to it, and Right Coast has received kudos everywhere from Yelp to Westword.
And Vogel thinks the pizza can get even better.
He and Eskow are consistently tweaking elements to best match the flavors they know so well from back East with the realities of cooking at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. “We think we are 99 percent there,” Vogel says. “We do have trouble mainly from the water. It’s incredibly complex.”
The full menu goes beyond pizza, including calzanettis (their version of a sandwich), calzones, salads and sweets. Just about everything is made in-house, from scratch.
While the menu is decidedly Jersey/Italian, the drink list is exclusively Colorado. Craft beers, spirits and wines are all from Colorado producers, including using Bonacquisti’s [d] Red serving as its house wine, poured from the keg.
“We are a beer destination,” Vogel says. “At the same time, our customers love getting a Colorado education. They love coming in and seeing what Colorado has to offer for wine spirits and tequila. nything and everything.”
Vogel’s background in oil and gas is a big reason the drink list tips completely toward Colorado. During his three years working along the Western Slope, he was able to taste several Colorado wines.
“On the handful of days we had off, we’d go wine tasting — obviously,” he said.
Of course, he made a few stops to Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, too.
“Being out there is where I got my Colorado pride for what Colorado can do,” he says. “My pride in the state of Colorado grew immensely out there.”
It would seem the duel pride of Colorado booze and Jersey-style slices have served Right Coast well.
Bonacquisti Wine Co. [d] Red ($6 glass; $4 during happy hour at 3-6 p.m. daily) with:
Fresh Mozzarella (8.99): This housemade mozz is served with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette and fresh roasted red peppers perfect for the smooth red blend.
Mountainside Pizza ($14.99 medium, $23.99 large): The roasted peppers, chicken and fresh basil serve this wine well. Opt for the red sauce in this pairing.