Dining Out: Papa Pete's delivers classic pizza taste

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Why: Papa Pete's Pizza opened its first location in Castle Rock in 1974 and has since added three locations. The owners are committed to using fresh, wholesome ingredients to create a variety of pizzas made with their own proprietary dough and secret sauce. Gourmet pies aren't what it's about, but with 28 different, customizable choices, it's likely something will suit your fancy.

Atmosphere: The restaurant is quite big and offers a separate party room that can be reserved for large groups. Walls are painted red and white, with a vibrant pizza print carpet used as wainscot, which serves to both warm up the atmosphere and absorb excess sound. Seating consists mostly of tables and comfortable upholstered chairs, along with tall bistro set-ups featuring barstools along the window side of the restaurant. Its character is further defined by a few neon signs that designate areas and an attractive jewel finish on metal surfaces used throughout.

What I Tried: I recently stopped in for dinner at Papa Pete's Pizza's Ridgefield restaurant and sampled the Taco Pizza, BBQ Chicken Pizza, and a basic pepperoni pizza. I also tried the dinner salad.

Though I requested that the cheese, salami, and pepperoni be left off the dinner salad, I found it a bit small for the $3.19 price tag, compared with a similar salad one might order at a family-style restaurant. It was made with fresh, crisp romaine lettuce topped with three thin, half-slices of tomato and approximately one-quarter cup of olives.

Of the pizzas, my dining companions and I were most fond of the pepperoni. The pepperoni used is petite in size and has a mild flavor. A plentiful measure was added while maintaining balance with the amount of sauce and crust. The pizza reminded us of a subtle version of Round Table's pepperoni without the charred spots that are often part of a Round Table experience.

The taco version begins with a thick crust topped with a small amount of sauce and bits of seasoned ground beef. These are baked together before shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese and slices of tomato are added. Individual taco sauce packets are served alongside the pizza. The pizza's overall flavor was underwhelming, but given the hot base and cold toppings, it did have a taco quality to it.

An abundant amount of chopped red onions on the BBQ Chicken pizza dominated the flavor. If not for these, it would have been very similar in flavor to many I've tried of the same variety.

As for the proprietary dough -- it was soft without being gooey, and the edge and bottom of the crust had an appetizing crunch to it. The flavor was classic.

The secret sauce is tomatoey, sweet and mild.

Menu Highlights Beyond what I tried: An Oyster Pizza topped with cherry wood smoked oysters is on the menu. The Vegetarian Pizza is topped with olives, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. The one pizza listed as gourmet, the Gourmet Garlic Chicken, sounded intriguing to me. This pizza is made with a creamy garlic sauce, chicken breast, artichoke hearts, red onions, tomatoes and an Italian herb seasoning. Boneless chicken wings are also on the menu.

Other Observations: Sports teams and large groups will find Papa Pete's has plenty of room for them.

The service was friendly and the restaurant was spotless.

Cost: Pizzas come in five sizes and range from a mini, which serves one, to a family, which serves five. Prices vary from $6.89 to $29.39. Salads are $3.19 to $7.19.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In June, the hours of operation will change.

Information: 360-887-1818 or http://www.papapetes.com.

Where: 109 South 65th Avenue, Ridgefield.

Health Score: Papa Pete's received a score of 2 on March 29. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.