Is the smell of wood-fired pizza "obnoxious?" Il Vicino's neighbors think so

il vicino south gaylord 550x334.jpg
Update, 4:50 p.m.: We heard from Carol Mrzlikar, one of the neighbors upset over the smoke emitted from Il Vicino's wood-fired oven. Continue reading for her comments.

Should the smoke emitted from a wood-burning pizza oven be considered air pollution?

The neighbors of Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza on South Gaylord Street seem to think so. On September 7, the restaurant was slapped with a citation for violating the city's odor ordinance after several neighbors complained about the smoke -- and the smell.

See also:
Il Vicino opens on South Gaylord Street ... with a liquor license!
Photos: Il Vicino opens a gelateria and coffeehouse
Pizzeria Locale opening in Denver in the former Il Vicino space on Broadway

Il Vicino is the second business to be fined under a 2008 revision to the city's odor ordinance that that allows a citation to be issued if the Department of Environmental Health receives five smell complaints from different households within a twelve-hour period and "verifies the source of the odor." The first was Kasel Associates Industries, a pet treat factory in the hip River North neighborhood. The battle between the factory and its neighbors is the subject of this week's cover story, "Raising a Stink."

Il Vicino has its own neighborly woes. After shuttering its location at Sixth and Broadway, the restaurant opened on South Gaylord in July -- with a liquor license. But getting one "wasn't easy," owner Rick Post told us this summer. "We had four or five people who were really adamantly against us getting the license, but we also had 450 signatures from residents, along with 100 local business signatures, who were in favor," he said.

That same group of neighbors continued to harass him once the restaurant was open, Post wrote in a letter to the Department of Environmental Health appealing the citation. They questioned the city's decision to allow Il Vicino to have a patio and then complained that the patio was too noisy, he wrote. When an investigator found that it wasn't, Post wrote, the neighbors started complaining about the smoke and the odor.

il vicino oven 250x180.jpg
Lori Midson
The oven in question.
"We agree that on occasion, there is a slight odor from the wood-burning fire but contend that it in no way interferes with anything," Post wrote in the letter. "We have asked our customers on many occasions whether they smell the 'odor' and the feedback generally was either they did not smell anything or it was slight and was an enjoyable smell."

The complaints tell a different story. On July 31, seven neighbors complained about the smoke. "Caller reports Il Vicino restaurant has a wood-burning stove that wafts smoke throughout the neighborhood and is very dense and may be hazardous to breathing," one complaint reads. "Caller is reporting heavy smoke smell," another says.

The complaints were enough to trigger a violation and a $150 fine. Post appealed the citation and a hearing was held on October 18. Several complainants testified, telling the hearing officer that the smoke was so strong, the neighbors couldn't open their windows in the summer. One neighbor described the burning-wood smell as "annoying" and another described it as "obnoxious." Post also testified, reiterating what he'd said in his letter.

In the end, the hearing officer upheld the citation, finding that at least five neighbors had indeed complained within a twelve-hour period. However, the officer's written conclusion states that because of Post's "attempts to remedy the situation by meeting with the inspector and exploring options to abate the smoke and odor," the $150 fine is suspended.

We reached out to Post but haven't heard back from him. We'll update this blog post if and when we do. We've also left messages for several of the neighbors who wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Park Profile in September, complaining that they felt "frustrated" and "disrespected." We'll also update this post if we hear back from them.

Update: Neighbor Carol Mrzlikar isn't happy with the outcome of Il Vicino's citation.

"I don't feel like it's been resolved at all," she says of the issue. "We still have a huge smoke problem in our neighborhood."

Mrzlikar is a longtime resident of the neighborhood. Her and her husband's home on Vine Street sits back-to-back with Il Vicino. She says she first noticed the smoke in early July. "We came home and our backyard was just full of smoke," she says. "It was just horrible. Sometimes, you could see it was black. More than anything, it smelled."

And Mrzlikar says it doesn't smell like pizza: "It smells more like grease. It's just gross."

"It affects me physically," she adds. "I have allergies. It makes my allergies a lot worse. My eyes are always bloodshot. It was so bad last summer that a lot of times, I couldn't enjoy my backyard. I told my husband, 'I feel like a prisoner in my own home.'"

Mrzlikar says she frequently calls 311 to complain but says the city odor inspectors don't even call back anymore. "Calling the city is getting us nowhere," she says.

Though Mrzlikar opposed Il Vicino's application for a liquor license, she says she has no issues with the restaurant's patio -- or its owner. "I'm not looking for a fight," she says. "I would love to get along with this establishment. It's a very quiet business and it does cater to families. ... I just want him to take care of the smoke."

The smoke is so bothersome, she says she and her husband have considered selling their home. But they've decided to wait until to spring to see if things improve. Since the citation was issued, however, she says nothing has changed. "I feel like some of my rights have been taken away from me that any American citizen should enjoy," she says. "I think there's got to be something that can be done. I just don't know what."


Location Info

Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza - CLOSED

1001 S. Gaylord St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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15 comments
jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

If she was my neighbor I'd have loud, obnoxious sex, make my dog crap on her lawn AND steal her newspapers every single day. Il Vicino makes delicious food.

LoriMidsonCafeSociety
LoriMidsonCafeSociety moderator editor

If I'm not mistaken, the landlord of Il Vicino has a restraining order against Carol Mrzlikar, who, at the very minimum, is an "annoying" pest. I live two blocks from Il Vicino, on South Gaylord, and walk past it nearly every day. The smoke is minimal to non-existent.

a94buff
a94buff

Carol Mrzlikar sounds like a real piece of work.

NoCredibility
NoCredibility

Here's where these neighbor's lose any benefit of doubt or credibility with me.

They opposed the liquor license to the previous business there and ran them out.

They opposed the liquor license for this business.  Then they complained about the patio.  The city said there was no problem with the patio.  Now, they're bitching about this supposed "smoke problem".

Seems to me, they are just shitty neighbors and need something constructive to do besides prevent local businesses providing services, products and jobs to the community.

Might I suggest Highlands Ranch as a better location for you folks where you can enforce ridiculous HOA covenant laws against your neighbors.  I think you'd be much better suited there instead of bothering the rest of Denver with your petty garbage.

Laura McClurg Jensen
Laura McClurg Jensen

Sounds like something is obnoxious, not sure if its the pizza though....

GregLJK
GregLJK

Trying to understand why this story was posted today. Complaints were in July, citation was in September, hearing was in October. What am I missing? Did something else happen recently?

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

I can appreciate the neighbors concerns.  I lived not far from a BBQ joint many years ago and the smoke generated was truly obnoxious - couldn't leave the windows open and draperies and upholstery started to absorb the smell.  Finally, the city cracked down after many complaints and forced the place to install some sort of smoke abatement equipment that solved the problem for the most part.  It might be nice to drive or walk by and catch a whiff of their smoke but try living next to the place and smelling it morning, night and noon and see how you feel.

bakerboy
bakerboy

Come back to South Broadway! I love the smell of wood fired pizza. Those south gaylord yuppies dont know what they are missing. Everyone wants to see the cows but no one wants to smell em!

Jon_S
Jon_S

I'm sure it's horribly obnoxious to be subjected to odors of any kind when your shit doesn't stink.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

It's absolutely insane that the citation can be issued based on the complaints alone, with no investigation into the cause or general offensiveness of the smell. These neighbors need to think seriously about why they own homes where they do and the ramifications of being anti-business in a neighborhood that is mostly dedicated to quality family-focused restaurants and businesses. Only a person with an agenda would consider the smell of wood smoke to be a detriment to quality of life.

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

Add marijuana smoke to the wood smoke and problem solved.

Tally
Tally

@LoriMidsonCafeSociety  Since you live over there, I would like to know this:  doesn't that "Pet treat" factory stink?  Seems yes, based on that other article.  

So how can they be complaining about the pizza smell?  I imagine that Kasel Associates smells like the Purina plant off I-70.  Yuck.  I would rather smell wood fire pizza ANY day!

I wish I had so much time on my hands as this Carol woman.  Wait until she drives this place out of business and it is replaced with a McDs...and they have more than deep enough pockets to take her BS on.

melanie.asmar
melanie.asmar

@GregLJK Hi Greg, We posted it today because our cover story this week is about the other business that's been fined under the five-complaints clause of the city's odor ordinance: a pet treat factory in RiNo called Kasel Associates Industries. As we were reporting that story, we also requested the documents related to Il Vicino's citation. 

 Here's a link to the cover story: http://www.westword.com/2012-12-20/news/rrino-neighbors-raise-a-stink-about-kasel-associates/ Thanks for reading!

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@Denver Dave I would pay good money to have someone fumigate my house with BBQ aromas so that it always smelled that way.

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

@Mantonat @Denver Dave Trust me - it gets old after awhile.  Try BBQ smoke with your oatmeal and OJ in the early morning every day and be prepared to hurl.

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