At Mature Marco’s, Service & Pizza Match

Marco’s still turns out good Neapolitan pizza & other items from a small menu

Maybe I should not bother writing about an experience three years ago. Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria was a pioneer of restaurant gentrification in the Five Points/Ballpark neighborhood and also a pioneering Neapolitan-style pizzeria in Denver. At the time, it also pioneered unnecessarily unpleasant service.  Consequently, my husband and I stayed  away for a long, long time — even though we often drive down Larimer Street en route to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Early on, Marco’s was garnering such raves for its Neapolitan-style pizzas that we had to try it.  On a weekday evening back in August 2009, we wandered in before the theater. The dining area to the right was totally empty. A very few people were at the bar for a drink, a bite and the ballgame. We wanted to sit in a booth or at a table, but the hostess insisted that there were many reservations for that evening and she couldn’t seat us anywhere in the dining roo, even after we told her that we had theater tickets for a 7:30 show. Still, she insisted that the only place she could seat us was in the bar area, where she showed us to a table on a raised platform with side-by-side banquette seating only — presumably so that we too could watch sports TV.

Back in 2009, we had to argue with the waitress to get a pizza with all the arugula on one side.

We ordered a pizza to share and asked whether all the arugula could be placed on one half with the other half a greens-free zone. She initially argued with us because the menu stated “no substitutions.” We pointed out that we didn’t want to substitute, just to re-arrange the arugula. She said she’d “see” whether that could be done. We were served the pizza we wanted (see above), ate quickly and left — with the dining area still empty and  the customer-be-damned attitude  something I hadn’t experienced since I’d left New York.

Exposed brick, cool lettering as wall art and well-placed splotlights are popular features of urban restaurants. Here, the dining room section where we were seated on our second visit to Marco’s — three years after the off-putting first.

But we aren’t ones to hold a grudge forever, so we gave Marco’s another try en route to “The Book of Mormon” (yes, we got tickets!!!!), we gave Marco’s another try. Again it was early and the place was far from full. We were offered a choice of seating, including out on the patio. We opted for the dining room– and this time we were permitted to sit there. We ordeedr pretty much the same items we’d had before — pizza to share and salad. Not wishing to spoil an evening we were really excited about, we didn’t push our luck with any special requests, so there was no possibiikty of an argument from the waitress this time. Marco’s, it seems, has matured and now has service on a par with its pizza.

Red pepper flakes and grated Parmesan on black napkin and small white plate have been brought to the table for years — maybe since the beginning.
Fresh greens, fresh mozzarella and fresh grape tomatoes with Balsamic vinaigrette, another Marco’s long-time standard.
Pizza Margherita, a Neapolitan classic done well in the wood-fired oven at Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza.

Price check: Pizza (12-inch “Napolitana” or New York Pies), $10-$18; Assemble Your Own, also offered for 9- or 12inch pies; house specials (apps and also lasagna), $10-$19; salads, $7-$11; sandwiches, $10; dessert, $6-$10.

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