When I walk into Bob and Tony’s Pizza in Estes Park, a pizza institution along Main Street since 1970, the first thing I notice is the ordering counter and cash register on the right side. The kitchen runs the half the length deep of this establishment with bustling high school or college-aged kids running the show – and a great show it is. Noticing the cash register, empty stacks of soda pitchers, cups of pens and stacks of tri-folded menus shouldn’t perhaps be the first thing that catches my eye – but it is, and I will explain why in a moment. I could actually turn my attention to the opposite side of the restaurant, where I would describe tables with wooden chairs, or booth if you’re against the wall. Each table center pieced with a napkin dispenser, salt and pepper shakers and a shaker of each red pepper flakes and parm cheese. Also, a funny metal contraption that elevates your pizza pie once it arrives (by a member of your party, mind you, there is no table service in this joint-you wait to hear your name called over the speaker and you come and get it).
I prefer the register side because every time I walk in here, that vision of what I see goes against everything I think I should see when I walk into a restaurant. I think I shouldn’t see all that sort of clutter. I know! I know! How snooty am I? But, maybe not as much as we think, because I like it here-it toys with my senses and emotions and here is why. I love this place-I love how old it is, how grungy it appears, how eclectic it is, how it serves and has served cagillions of tourists each year that come from as close as Denver to as far away as Timbuktu! I love that, based on what I think I know about a good place to eat, it all goes out the window at Bob and Tony’s. I love their old carpet! I love that there is a an old TV on the ledge in the middle of the dining room airing CNN. I love that there is a game room in the back half of the place. I love that there is a juke box that doesn’t work! I love that there is always a line of people and usually a hard time finding a seat! And, I haven’t even mentioned the brick wall that lines the entire one side of the restaurant. A brick wall that people, throughout the years, have littered by painting on them their names, the date, who they love, their favorite movie lines, their favorite sports teams, their pets, etc…Not a clean spot can be found on this wall – and, you guessed it, I LOVE it!
Whenever we arrive at Bob and Tony’s we walk in, grab a menu from the cluttered counter that I love, walk to find a table, peruse the menu, make our decision and then Chris goes back up, waits in line, brings back our soda cups and plastic silverware and we wait for our name to be called. Just yesterday, I found myself telling the boys, “We’re gonna be here a while, kids…” But, it wasn’t a bad thing, because I know what’s coming and it’s gonna be good. The cheese pizza is like a New York style – thin crust, gooey cheese and homemade daily pizza sauce. You can taste the garlic and basil and the grease from the cheese-its so wonderful. Even the grease from the cheese soaks through the paper plates that we’re given to eat off of. But its not so much grease that it’s gross-its just enough. The veggie pizza comes on a thicker crust with large fresh chunks of tomato, black olive, mushroom, peppers and onions. Even the cornmeal on the bottom of the crust makes for a delicious flavor that you can’t just let it go uneaten.
Now, if you know Chris and I, we love a good beer, but guess what? I don’t even notice that they don’t sell it here at Bob and Tony’s because I prefer to drink Rootbeer out of the red, heavy duty plastic cups they use. Not the disposable ones, but the ones you get at older diner type places. You’ve had them, I know you have-maybe you don’t know it. Or, maybe I just did a lousy job of describing it. You’ve had them before.
We couldn’t help but notice that there was a “for sale” notice at the cluttered register. My heart sunk upon the realization of this. My hope is that the owner may just be ready to retire and would hand it over to someone who loves it and wants to keep it going. My hope is that it gets to stay the institution that it is for years to come. I want my kids to be excited about pizza from Bob and Tony’s at the end of our family day-cation day each summer. So, there you have it, this place, with everything that makes it appear to be less than what my food-networked-mind says a restaurant aught to be, makes all that much more.