February 1, 2016 |

Conversation with Jeff Smokevitch, Brown Dog Pizza, Blue Pan Pizza

By Pizza Today

Jeff Smokevitch

Brown Dog Pizza – Telluride, Colorado
Blue Pan Pizza – Denver, Colorado

World Pizza Champion Jeff Smokevitch opened Brown Dog Pizza in Telluride with Dan Lynch in 2001. Last year, he expanded his concept of multiple pizza styles to Denver with the opening of Blue Pan Pizza with co-owner Giles Flanagin.

“Smoke” speaks on pizza styles and gluten free

Jeff Smokevitch

Jeff Smokevitch, Co-owner
Brown Dog Pizza, Telluride, CO, and Blue Pan, Denver, CO

On different pizza styles, different markets — Brown Dog Pizza in Telluride, Colorado, has a much larger menu and offers a variety of items in addition to pizza. We offer five styles of pizza (Detroit, American, New York, Chicago, gluten-free). Brown Dog Pizza has house-made pastas, subs, salads, burgers, and wings. The atmosphere at Brown Dog is sports themed with more than 100 seats.

Blue Pan Pizza in Denver is a pizza driven restaurant with five styles of pizza, but we also offer salads and appetizers. Blue Pan has 20 dine in seats, with a full bar and table service. But Blue Pan is more carry out than Brown Dog.

The neighborhoods in Denver and Telluride are very similar in terms of demographics. With that being said our pizza menus have a lot of the same offerings. In Denver, our best selling pizza is the “Parma Italia” which has burrata, prosciutto, soppressata, scarmorza cheese and arugula. Telluride’s best selling pizza is the “313” with genoa salami, ricotta, garlic, sweet piquante peppers, Calabria chili peppers, fresh arugula, basil and Parmesan Reggiano. Those pizzas are very similar in that they both are Detroit-style pizza crust with mostly imported Italian toppings.

On pizza styles — Although our signature style of pizza in Denver and Telluride is Detroit style, we firmly believe that variety creates nostalgia (which, in turn, sells a lot of pizza). A lot of transplants live in Colorado, so by offering different regional styles of pizza we are able to satisfy our many different customer tastes.

On gluten free — I cannot stress the importance of our gluten-free (GF) menu. It is very difficult to account the additional sales we get because a group of eight may choose Brown Dog Pizza over other Telluride eateries because one person in their group is GF. But I can tell you that I would not open a restaurant without a gluten-free menu, that is how important it is to us. GF is not a trend or fad, it is not going away, ever.

We execute our menu by first having a “cross contamination disclaimer” on the GF menu. In Telluride, we offer GF pizzas, burgers, wraps and calzones. Denver has GF pizzas and salads. All of our GF food is prepared in the same kitchen as our regular food but we do practice extreme caution in terms of cross contamination.

What’s the biggest menu trend right now?

Multiple styles of pizza. We have proven success in two markets by offering five styles of pizza at each of our pizzerias. We take great pride in selecting regional ingredients for each of the styles of pizza crust. All of our flours, water quality, salts, fats, yeasts and sugars are carefully tested for months before selecting the best options for each style.

Additionally, I see more and more bread bakers entering the pizza industry. Bread bakers will raise the bar for the quality of pizza crust in the industry.