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P38 Pizza does the American pizzeria thing right


P38 Pizza: made simply, made well and made with love. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • P38 Pizza: made simply, made well and made with love.

Certain luxuries make a good dinner that much better. Good food can be improved by good drink, a pleasant setting, good company and a laundry list of other things besides. But I'm always a sucker for a meal with a good story behind it — whether that story is fact or fable matters less than the quality. And P38 Pizza has a hell of a story.

According to co-owners Val and John Morrison, John's father, Walter Morrison, was a P-38 pilot in World War II. As the story goes, Walter's plane was shot down over Italy. Stranded in the mountains, he stayed with local sheep herders for six months. Val says that's where they get their recipe for red sauce. It's a humble sauce, not show-stealing in depth of flavor nor staggering in bright freshness, but serving a respectable supporting role wherever it's found.

Try it on a meatball sandwich. Theirs run affordable at $6 a pop — not massive by any means, but filling and tasty, served with potato chips. Ours comes on a crusty bun with garlic butter, cheese and red sauce accompanying house-made, all-beef meatballs. They're seasoned simply, with oregano and basil, and in the sandwich, they're sliced thin, which overcomes the tougher texture most all-beef meatballs have.

Further down the house-made meats path, we get a small pizza with the Morrisons' all-pork Italian sausage atop. The seasonings — garlic, parsley, and mild anise — read through fat and cheese alike, with red sauce adding a little needed acidity. The crust's thick and American, with a nice crunch to the outside and tender chew in the middle. No surprise, it ages for a day or two before baking, crucial for building structure and flavor complexity.

We also enjoy the Sienna pizza, which sees spinach, roasted chicken, garlic, and marinated artichoke hearts atop cheese and red sauce. It's similar to the equally satisfying Greek pizza, which gets garlic oil instead of red sauce, loses the chicken and garlic, and gains tomato, red onion and feta.

P38 also serves house-made ice cream in 12 flavors. On our second visit, we pass over the tempting salted caramel and Ben & Jerry's-clone cherry Garcia for scoops of Reese's brownie, s'mores and coffee Heath bar, all vanilla-based, all creamy and satisfying in texture. But ranking among the strangest food complaints I've ever made, the ice cream base is too sweet, cloying the palate and leaving two of our three diners with uneasy stomachs after.

The Reese's offends most, needing more peanut butter savoriness or chocolate richness to balance out the flavor. S'mores does better, with balance from graham crackers and chocolate chips. But while the bits of crushed coffee bean jolt with bitterness in the coffee Heath, it's P38's best success at producing a balanced scoop from our sampling. But I'd still prefer to order one of the three Pikes Peak Brewing beers on tap for an adult dessert, thanks very much.

To be clear, P38 won't be putting nonna on notice for molto autentico pizza. It's a family-run corner pizzeria, thoroughly welcoming to all comers, but filtered through years of American pizza tradition. While the Morrisons aren't pushing the Springs culinary scene toward cosmopolitan bliss, they're making good pizza, and that's absolutely a story worth telling.

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