Open the door to Vail, Colo.-based Alpine Pizza Company, and the chilly mountain air turns into the aromas of freshly baked pizza that this part of the country has never seen. Chef/Owner Colby Lefebvre is no stranger to restaurant life in Vail, and he noticed that no one in the area was baking the sought after pizza that is sweeping the nation: Detroit-style pizza. And, even though Alpine Pizza Company is only 550 sq. ft. of grab-and-go space, it’s making a big impact mere steps away from Lionshead Gondola at Vail Mountain’s base.
“The pizza options here are pretty limited. I started making pizza in my home oven about four to five years ago, and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to figure out how to make pizza better at home,’” Lefebvre said. “No one in Colorado was doing Detroit-style, other than Telluride, which is like five hours away.”
Lefebvre researched, dove into the Detroit side of things, and studied different bread and baking books to learn more about doughs in general. He then applied that knowledge to pizza dough and bought a huge cake pan online to test.
“It was huge; it fed about eight people,” Lefebvre said with a laugh. “It came out really well — the first one — so over the next year or so I changed things here and there, started baking more and handing them out to friends from my house.”
Research extended to Amazon, where Lefebvre first saw LloydPans. He bought a few different styles for his house while he worked on perfecting the dough. Detroit-style works best for what he does in-house, and Lefebvre noted that there’s a reason why it’s such a rage in the United States right now: it’s delicious.
“Actually @Notorious_P.I.E. says to use your pans in their Pizza Guides [cookbook tutorials], so that’s where I first heard about LloydPans,” he said.
Then — everything changed with a joke. Lefebvre lives on Alpine Drive, and once at-home pizza dinner parties started to grow, someone said he should name his new company Alpine Pizza Company. Lefebvre started an Instagram “to scare the other pizza places to try harder.” And, as they say, he built it and they came. Followers started to grow even during the pandemic, pizza sales ramped up and his current restaurant shut down, a move that prompted him to start looking for Alpine Pizza Company space about a year ago.
Alpine Pizza Company opened in early January, and it boasts a business plan of grab-a-slice-and-go or ordering the pie of the day, which currently has been the Detroit-style.
“No one’s ever done that around here and it works so well. And it’s blowing up,” Lefebvre said. “I’ve only ever baked in altitude, and I think when cooking in a home oven LloydPans make pizzas really well because they’re thick walled and have a great conductivity to them. What’s awesome is that the pans sit well; they don’t bend.”
Lefebvre decided on Detroit-style pizza for two reasons. One, he had never had it before because at that time there was only one place in Colorado selling it, and it was a five-hour drive way. Second, it seemed the easiest pizza to recreate at home. His first pizza was about 14 by 20 inches; then he sought smaller pans for a higher cheese crust to inner ratio. That’s when he found LloydPans.
“Our Detroit doesn’t perfectly match the descriptions I have read about that truly make it a Detroit-style pizza. The crust is a little bit lighter. There are larger bubbles,” he said. “I like this because it adds different textures throughout the slice. The flour we use is an organic flour from Colorado and has a great flavor. I believe flour is the most important part. The cheese we use is whole milk low moisture mozzarella; we don’t use the traditional brick cheese.”
In the short couple of weeks that Alpine Pizza Company has opened up shop, the LloydPans have made the move to the deck oven, and Lefebvre said they cook evenly on the bottom, even after heavy use.
“We’ve gone through every single pan 15 to 20 times each and none are distorted, which happens a lot here. I started with 50 pans thinking we could do 75 pizzas a day, and we kept running out. We just didn’t have enough time and I had to order 30 more and I’ll probably have to order more,” he said. “There’s a huge temperature variation [with altitude]. They have to be able to sit flat on the stones so they cook right. When you actually put them in the oven, the steam expands. It’s 198 degrees, not 210 degrees, to reach boiling point, so there’s less steam involved.”
Lefebvre is a busy guy, currently being the only one prepping about 100 pizzas a day. Alpine Pizza Company closes when the pizzas run out, and he’s sold out every single day he’s been open. The pie of the day hasn’t varied much, but today Lefebvre said he’s planning on doing Colorado hatch chiles with pepperoni and fresh garlic. Then, when they come out of the oven, he’s going to drizzle homemade hot honey on it to add more acidity and sweetness.
“I’ve never done it before, but I think it’s going to work,” he said.
If the past is any indication, we think so too.