The Hot Tomato in Fruita fun to visit and even better to enjoy pizza

QUICKREAD

WHAT: The Hot Tomato Cafe

WHERE: 124 N. Mulberry St., Fruita

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. Reopens after a holiday break on Monday, Jan. 4.

CONTACT: 858-1116; http://www.hottomatocafe.com.

COST: Pizzas, $14.95–$24.95; slices, $2.25–$3.50; specialties, such as calzone for two, $14.95.



The Hot Tomato Cafe is one of the hottest joints in Fruita, and owners Anne Keller and Jen Zeuner know how to throw a pie.

Pizzas are made to order — so be prepared to wait a bit — and the dough is homemade in a shoulder-high pink industrial Mix-Master.

While you’re waiting, soak in the ambience. It’s hip, bicycle-friendly and crunchy. The Hot Tomato serves gluten-free pizzas and five vegetarian pies, not including your own concocted orders.

The downtown-Fruita caf&233; is tucked away on a side street, coincidentally named Mulberry, namesake of the main drag in New York’s famed Little Italy.

A bike sculpture on the patio was created by a local metal artist. The bar stools are recycled from an old soda fountain.

Requirements for employees at The Hot Tomato, as stated on the jobs section of the website, are that they:

Be good-natured and friendly.

Can light a fire under your (butt) when it’s “go” time.

What excellent criteria. They hold the bar high and the young staff members don’t disappoint.

The Hot Tomato exclusively carries beers on tap from New Belgium brewery, including two taps of Lips of Faith craft brews.

On a recent visit, we ordered a sampling of pizza and sausage rolls. Pizzas are made on regular thin crust or deep-dish Sicilian.

Hands-down, the favorite of nearly everybody I’ve talked to is the Granny’s Pesto pizza. And I must agree with the crowd.

Granny’s Pesto was a perfect blend of tart, sweet and creamy: pesto, mozzarella, garlic, feta cheese and tomatoes.

I could actually taste the sweetness of the fresh tomato, something not usually found at a pizzeria in wintertime. Our server told us that when something can’t be found fresh and in season, such as avocados, it is not served.

If you are fond of more carbo heft, I recommend the Sicilian. The pillowy dough topped with — my choice — chicken, rosemary, feta and roasted peppers was lovely. It’s not surprising that Italian and Greek ingredients are a seamless fit, considering the people have occupied each other’s countries back-and-forth over the centuries.

My dining companion loved the molto spicy meatball pizza. The Italian sausage rolls wrapped in provolone and sweet peppers went to my co-workers and received high marks. They weren’t sure if it was stromboli or what, but they wanted more.

The white-sauce pizzas could use a little pep. The bacon and spinach topping, with a self-applied dose of pepper flakes, made up for it, but the sauce itself was rather bland.

The Hot Tomato is a good combination of food, drink and attitude to while away an hour or two.

I want to go back on a lazy warm afternoon, when I can sit outside. A frosty New Belgium and the Stinky Deluxe with meatballs, fresh garlic and jalapenos look to be my next conquests, and I can’t go to work after that.

BREW NEWS: Colorado craft brewers Breckenridge Brewing, which owns The Ale House in Grand Junction, and Wynkoop Brewing Co. have formed a joint venture to share brewing operations and marketing. The brewers will retain their current identities and lines.

WHITE BUCK SHOES: Hoping to follow in the footsteps of other celebrity food producers, 1950s pop/gospel crooner Pat Boone is launching his own line of mail-order meats.

Together with Colorado Springs investor J.W. Roth, Boone formed Pat Boone All-American Meats.

Boone intends to donate 50 percent of his royalties to conservative causes, according to the venture’s website.

QUOTE: “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.” — Kevin James, actor and comedian

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