Any way you slice it

Downtown pizza picture offers plenty of options

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It no longer matters whether you are headed west or east on Lincoln Avenue -- you can pull over for pizza by the slice without ever having to make a left turn against traffic.

In a downtown Steamboat Springs market that already offered ample opportunities for casual Italian dining, the new Pisa's Blue Sage Express and the recently relocated Brooklynn's Pizzeria are offering big slices of pizza pie for less than $3. The pizzerias are less than a block from existing restaurants that offered pizza as a convenience item.

Pisa's is closest to the high school and Routt County Courthouse. Brooklynn's is closest to Colorado Mountain College and City Hall. If you're headed west through town, Brooklynn's is convenient on the south side of Lincoln. Headed from the mountain through town? You can hang a right into Pisa's on the north side of Lincoln.

Brooklynn's moved late last fall from Fourth Street and Lincoln Avenue to 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue in the space formerly occupied by Yampatika and a glass-blowing business.

Just up the street, at 917 Lincoln Ave., Mazzola's Italian Restaurant offers take-and-bake pizza in addition to its dining room menu.

Brooklynn's owner Brad White already has developed a following by offering slices of pizza all day and night. At Brooklynn's, that means until 1 a.m.

"We've been doing really well since we moved," White said. "I don't know if it has something to do with the winter, or if people are just psyched to see we've re-opened."

In addition to pizza, his restaurant serves 8-inch sandwiches such as the chicken parmesan for $7.

Rex Brice, owner of Maz- zola's, also sells pizza by the slice, though he says it isn't the focus of his restaurant.

"We sell slices until 2 a.m., and during our happy hour, if you buy a drink, you get a free slice of pizza," he said.

Seating is limited to stools at Brooklynn's and Pisa's Blue Sage Express, but both serve expanded menus including salads, appetizers, Italian-style sandwiches and dinner specialties. Pisa's Blue Sage offers eight pasta dinners from its small shop inside the Go-Fer Foods convenience store.

Pisa's Blue Sage combines two well-known names in Italian dining here at its new location. Pisa's, located in Riverside Plaza, and Blue Sage Pizza in Central Park Plaza are owned by the Hebrank family. Bill Hebrank has assigned major responsibility for the new express location to his son Chris.

They've set up a nice little kitchen in a space formerly occupied by a small liquor outlet. The place wouldn't

look out of place in an ethnic neighborhood in an Eastern city such as Buffalo or Philly. That figures -- the Hebranks originally are from Philadelphia. Accordingly, they can lay claim to serving authentic cheese steak sandwiches at $6.50 or $7.50 with a cup of soup.

"We needed the right downtown location where we wouldn't have to pay $6,000-a-month rent," Bill Hebrank said. His new store is 700 square feet.

Bill Hebrank said the goal at the new express location is to combine the strengths of Pisa's pasta dishes with Blue Sage's reputation for pizza and combine them with the support of both kitchens. The food is cooked fresh on site.

"I will saute your Alfredo right here on the grill," Chris Hebrank said.

Go-Fer Foods has gas pumps out front, and it's theoretically possible that a customer could start pumping a tank of gas and slip into Pisa's for a slice before their tank is full.

Right across Seventh Street, at 704 Lincoln, BeauJo's Mountain Bistro is doing good business with a variety of Italian entrees that include its specialty Mountain Pies and Prairie Pies. They offer a personal pizza for less than $5 during lunch, and they'll do slices, owner Mike Poirot said.

"I was a little surprised to see (Pisa's Blue Sage) had opened across the street," Poirot acknowledged. "But we're certainly open to competition. It's good for all of us. In my opinion, it's similar to seeing a bunch of coffee shops opening next to a Starbucks. I figure there's a reason why (Pisa's Blue Sage) moved down here. They'll bring more people downtown."

BeauJo's lunch buffet includes all the pizza you care to eat and a salad. Customers also can preorder a pizza and pull up to the curb on Seventh Street to grab dinner and take it home.

"We're really aiming for families," Poirot said.

Brice said he doesn't think downtown Steamboat needed another pizza restaurant, but so far, the added competition hasn't hurt him.

"As people have realized we've made changes, our sales have gradually increased," Brice said. "Our repeat business has been incredible. "I haven't noticed an adverse effect from those guys (at Brooklynn's) moving in."

And there are more options for pizza in Old Town Steamboat --- not far from the other restaurants, Cugino's and Mambo Italiano serve pizza in a dining room setting.

For consumers, and downtown residents in particular, it all translates into more options and good buy on a hot slice of pizza pie.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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