By Jennifer Pund
At Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse, everything is created by hand. From the artisan copper oven and the pizzas it cooks to the craft beer and house-made ice cream they serve, it’s all produced with care and an attention to detail. After lengthy renovations, unexpected discoveries, and several hectic weeks getting ready to open, Crosscut’s four partners are excited to finally turn their focus to offering high quality ingredients and friendly service. Trying new and different menu items and continuing to challenge themselves is also part of the plan.
When walking into Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse, which opened to sold-out crowds in late October, it’s difficult not to notice the bright, shiny copper oven behind their hand-finished bar. “It’s a big part of the soul of the restaurant,” Partner Dawn Dennison said. “And, we love working with things that are alive, fire and yeast.”
Dennison and her husband, Tom Plant, are no strangers to the restaurant business. From 1994-2001, the couple ran the successful and locally-treasured Acoustic Coffeehouse where well-known musicians performed intimate concerts to music lovers surrounded by homemade bakery treats and specialty coffee drinks.
During this time, Plant also served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999-2007 representing Western Boulder, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties. He also spent three years directing the non-profit Center for ReSource Conservation in Boulder and served as the Chairman of Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee and House Appropriations Committee. He then served as Chairman of Appropriations Committee from 2006 to 2007 and Chairman of Joint Budget committee in 2007. Plant was the Energy Secretary under Governor Bill Ritter until 2011.
When the Acoustic Coffeehouse closed, Dennison began Crust, a mobile, wood-fired pizza catering company, in 2011. She experimented with ratios and fermentation times to create a dough, using organic, Colorado-milled flour, perfect for that type of oven. Before Crust, she admits she had never made pizza dough by hand and credits YouTube and good bread books as her first teacher. She said she loved the travel—and views—involved with a mobile catering business, but weather determined when she was able to work. “Dough doesn’t like to stretch in temperatures lower than around 60 degrees,” she explained. “ So, working outside really limited the amount of days I could work.”
Missing the community feel of the Acoustic Coffeehouse, the couple gained confidence a permanent pizza restaurant in Nederland would work by the crowd they drew every Tuesday at Salto’s Pizza Night which featured Crust. Dennison and Plant joined with friends Peter Marshall and Shannon Tupa and found a perfect location on the corner of First Street and Hwy. 119.
The newly renovated building on First St. is one of the original structures in Nederland dating back to 1891 and as early as 1913 was a general store housing the post office and known as “The Trading Post.” Over the years, it has also functioned as an ice cream parlor and fishing and gem shop under many different owners. In the 1980s, it was an office building and newspaper office. More recently, it has been the home to an antique store and an outdoor and gift shop with video rentals.
Once securing the building, renovations took more than six months, revealing traces of the building’s history as pieces were pealed away. The process fascinated the partners and they took special care to re-use materials. Newspapers from the 1940s, used as insulation under layers of tiles and old linoleum, were discovered as were metal signs for Beachwood Tobacco, Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush which now adorn the walls. Tin from the old roof is used around the bar and copper piping found inside the building is the bar’s foot rail.
Contractor Pete Schmidtman of Vertical Construction, “one of the most creative and competent people we’ve ever met” was responsible for most of the “inspired re-use ideas” throughout the restaurant. Two historic crosscut saws—giving the business its name—are mounted on the walls. One is Plant’s parent’s saw along with a photo of them cutting a tree with it, and the other was used by Dennison’s great grandfather.
Extra supports also had to be installed to reenforce the flooring to support the weight of a new wood-fired, copper oven made specifically for Crosscut and its unique location.
Dennison and Plant were familiar with Maine Wood Heat and their copper oven’s abilities after using a similar one for four years with Crust.
The restaurant oven is much bigger than the catering oven, so the couple is having fun learning how the heat moves around the dome and ways to use the different heat zones inside. “The oven is both an amazing machine and a stunning piece of artwork,” Dennison said. “I was familiar with the way Le Panyol clay from Provence, France works so well with heat retention. The craftsmanship on the outside of the oven is just remarkable.”
To compliment the handmade dough she has perfected, Dennison has searched for just the right toppings. Ingredients used are sourced, when available, from Colorado based, sustainable farms and butchers. Through Crust, relationships with local farms were established. “Through my catering business, I had done a number of farm-to-table dinners and developed great relationships with some of our local farmers like Betsy Burton who has Lyons Farmette,” Dennison said. “If you start with the best ingredients, you really can’t go wrong.”
The pork used for pepperoni is sourced from Salazar Natural Meats in Manassa, Colorado. Although they ‘burned through” more than 20 pounds in a week when they first opened, it will be back on the menu by early December. Crosscut spends about $20 a pound for the Salazar pepperoni, when less expensive, similar products—but lesser quality—can be found. “This great little farm is in the process of upping their production [to continue supplying Crosscut]. If we don’t support the small farmer/rancher who is raising his meat humanely and decently, he and ranchers like him will cease to exist,” Dennison explained. “Our pepperoni pizza has the lowest profit margin, but it also has the biggest impact on the good of the world, small farms, thoughtful agriculture and good treatment of animals.”
Crosscut’s approach to pizza blends into their approach for the selections on their eight taps. “We like to provide a nice variety and a bit of exploration for people who come in,” Dennison said. “It’s an opportunity to try something new and discover new things. It’s similar to our approach to pizza.”
Marshall is in charge of the beer, wine and cider selections, which change often. They are all crafted at small breweries and vineyards. “We try to maintain a good variety of beer like IPAs, stouts, browns, pales, Belgians, porters and more, and we change out brands all the time,” Dennison explains. “Peter is from England and in the future we plan to add some hand pump cask ales on tap in the British tradition.” Gary Cummins, a local sommelier, is providing the wine selection, both on tap and in bottles. “We have two white wines and two red wines on tap and a great bottle list,” Dennison said. “We also have cider on tap.”
Tupa is responsible for the creative, interesting and delicious ice cream flavors only available at Crosscut. “We are making our amazing ice cream in house, and they put the perfect end to a nice culinary excursion while staying simple and down-to-Earth,” she said. “I mean, it’s pizza, beer and ice cream. Just done in different ways that emphasize flavors and depth.” Most recently Tungsten Toffee was used for a topping for the classic vanilla ice cream or try something unique like rosemary chocolate.
The partners and their 10-person staff are trying hard to focus on two things: quality and service. “We love the building and the history and feel like we have an opportunity to do things a bit differently, keep the menu interesting, challenge ourselves and always keep improving,” Dennison said. “Our staff are so wonderful and they really help us to convey the idea of a friendly, welcoming place to sit with friends and try new things.”
There are always the classic pizzas the whole family will love, but don’t shy away from the more creative concoctions. Who knows, you might just love one made with olives and hot honey. Dine in or try the new take-out option—available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays—on their website. Text messages will let users know when orders are ready.
Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse is located at 4 E. First Street in Nederland. Visit crosscutpizza.com or call 303-258-3519 for more information.
Originally published in the December 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly