05.03.12 - 03:00 am
1615 Grand Ave., Norwood 970/327-0303

West End Pizzeria’s Paul Atkinson does pizza the old-school way – from scratch. He makes the dough fresh each morning and hand tosses it on the premises, topping each with homemade tomato sauce.

“I’m like an old-fashioned bakery,” he says. “You can’t take short cuts and come up with the same product.”

Atkinson purchased the small main street pizzeria in 2005 and has since transformed the once fledgling pizza joint into a weekly mainstay for many locals. One of only six restaurants in the small town of Norwood, Atkinson keeps his regular customers happy with nightly pizza specials featuring seasonal ingredients. The special on this day was a combination of fresh roasted green chiles (locally sourced in Montrose), smoked pork and onion. Another night it was spaghetti squash with a white garlic sauce – his most popular special.

“It sounds bizarre, and it is a little bit, but it just works,” Atkinson says of his spaghetti squash pizza. The same pie earned Atkinson accolades in the 2009 World Pizza Championships in Las Vegas.

“Some people will order the special no matter what it is, every time,” he says. But for Atkinson, an all-time favorite is simply cheese pizza with fresh garlic. “Garlic is just so yummy.

“People get too crazy with toppings sometimes.” Once in a while, a simple cheese pizza is just the thing – “good cheese, good sauce, good dough. Simplicity is best.”

West End Pizzeria offers six house pizzas, including the house special (pepperoni, sausage, bacon, jalapenos, onions, mushrooms, fresh roasted garlic) and a BBQ chicken pizza (spicy BBQ sauce, chicken breast, onion, sweet pickles, pineapple), as well as a build-your-own option. Toppings range from the typical pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers and olives to the more exotic: black forest ham, whole mozzarella, pesto and jalapeno. Atkinson might even throw on some fennel pollen if he has it on hand, for an alluring Tuscan flavor.

Prices range from $10-$21, depending on pie size and toppings. Non-pizza offerings include calzones, fresh salads, spicy chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks. And there are always two specialty beers on tap.

THE VIBE: West End Pizzeria is a small restaurant, to say the least, so you can’t always count on a table if you want to sit and enjoy your pizza in front of the large-screen TV. But there’s always take out, and it’s common to find customers standing at the counter chatting it up with Atkinson while they sip beer and wait for their pizza to come out of the oven. With an ambiance reminiscent of an intimate Italian village eatery, the décor also reveals the owner’s fascination for cycling and car racing. Atkinson’s always-happy partner Deb provides super friendly customer service and individualized attention, from bringing you extra napkins to checking to see if you need a beer refill. She might even hold your baby while you eat – as long as there’s not a line of people at the counter, that is.

DON’T MISS: The new spinach, artichoke, sundried tomato dip is a creamy, savory cheese concoction served hot with tortilla chips. It’s a meal in itself. And the salads are fresh and creative with house-made dressing, from the fresh spinach with hard-boiled eggs, toasted almonds, mushrooms and pancetta to the arugula paired with prosciutto, goat cheese, fresh grapefruit and red onion. They even have a Caesar salad special, and there’s always a daily dessert option.

$$ Tuesday-Friday, 4-8:30 p.m., Saturday, 4-8 p.m.

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