Second Look: At Papou's Pizzeria, Luke Loukopoulos is still rolling in dough
Pete Fafalios of Pantaleone's, which I review this week, isn't the town's only pizza-maker who's been in the business a long time. Luke Loukopoulos, owner of Papou's Pizzeria, has been slinging dough as long as he can remember. "I grew up making it back east," says Loukopoulos, who learned to make the dough and sauce that nabbed his restaurant the Best Thick-Crust Pizza award in the Best of Denver 2014 from his father, who owned a pizzeria in Connecticut for 45 years.
All photos by Danielle Lirette
See also: The twelve best pizzas in Denver
Just because the recipes have been around a while doesn't necessarily mean they've held up, as we saw with Pantaleone's before Gordon Ramsay came along. But in Papou's case, the recipes are definitely still good, especially for the dough.
"We have a little more secret ingredients to give it that flavor," admits Loukopoulos, who agrees that there's "a little bit more oil in the dough" than your average recipe, but left it at that.
The extra oil gives the dough, which is spread in a seasoned pan and crimped with a rounded edge, a rich, almost buttery taste that makes many deck-baked pizzas seem either floury and bland or overly charred. Topping the pies -- which are sliced the Connecticut way, into manageable squares, not hulking, triangular slices - is a blend of mozzarella and white cheddar, one secret touch he was willing to divulge.
When I first started going to Papou's, the biggest name in town was Proto's, which shows how long I've been a customer. Now there are too many big names to count, but Papou's - which has been remodeled a few times over the years, and will see a fresh coat of paint and new chairs this fall -- continues to stay relevant largely because of Loukopoulos' dedication.
"This isn't your stereotypical type of pizza shop, where you get young kids working that don't care," he says. "I know this sounds weird, but I think being a restaurant owner is 24-7."
And that means he still works there "pretty much all the time."