Checkerboard tile floors, wooden tables, and striped walls with framed pictures fill the small space inside Slice 420, a newly opened French-Italian restaurant on Colorado Avenue. Aromas of tomato sauce, fresh dough, meat, vegetables, and cheese fill the intimate space. From the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant to the glass window by the register at the front, the restaurant is filled with pizza by the slice, calzones, and “The Saint Gennaro Roll,” a fresh local roasted sausage with roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and house made tomato sauce in a bread roll (a glorified pig in a blanket).
On a sunny Friday afternoon, they leave the front door open to breathe fresh air into the warmth escaping from pizza ovens and to leak the fresh wonderful smells of pizza and sweet crepes out onto the streets of Old Colorado City.
Slice 420 Pizza opened just two months ago. The restaurant is co-owned by Olivier Leheux, originally from Paris, and Christian Patriarca, a second-generation Italian. Leheux moved from Paris to Colorado Springs in 1999 to work in the restaurant industry here. He has been a chef for 30 years now. Before opening Slice 420, Leheux owned a French restaurant in the Springs. Upon closing the restaurant in 2008, he ran a couple other restaurants before settling at a furniture warehouse in 2013. There he met Patriarca, who arrived in search of home decor after moving to Colorado Springs.
As he stood rolling pizza dough behind the open kitchen, Patriarca shared the story of his motivation behind his journey to Colorado Springs. Patriarca moved from Florida after owning a pizza place there for 10 years. He sold everything and left a successful business to come to Colorado for the sake of his little daughter. “We came here for medical cannabis. That’s the only reason why I’m here,” Patriarca said, sharing that his daughter suffers from cerebral palsy with a seizure disorder. “She’s four years old,” he said. “She went from thousands of seizures a month, to maybe one hundred, because of THC and CBD:” hence the name of the restaurant.
In 2016, a conversation about furniture with Leheux quickly turned into a shared business. “I told him in a couple months I wanted to open a creperie,” said Leheux. “I always wanted to, new vision, pizza and crepes, I found him, and together, nine months later, we are a business.”
Patriarca turned his world around for the health and safety of his daughter, beginning a new and purposeful life in Old Colorado City. “Colorado Springs gives you the best chance for your child, and best benefits for the family,” he said. The intentionality and genuineness of his character glows through the rich tomato sauce and the perfectly thin and crispy pizza crust he creates, as well as the relationship between himself and Leheux, another incredibly genuine character.
The quaint size of the restaurant allows for both efficient and quality food, with the option of an immediate slice of a variety of pizza options or a short wait for a custom pizza of any size. No item in the kitchen at Slice 420 is frozen, and all produce is bought fresh each day. “We make everything, every day: the pizza dough, bread, et cetera,” said Leheux, taking pride in the high quality and non-chemical ingredients used in their recipes. Slice 420 specializes in New York style pizza, characterized by “big slices, cool unique things on the counter all the time, just like if you go to New York and go to a slice shop, it’s an authentic pedestrian slice shop,” said Patriarca. Upon ordering pizza at the restaurant front, customers have no choice but to analyze the beautiful selection of chocolate mousse, cannoli, cakes, and other delicious desserts that sit next to the drink cooler just behind the cashier.
“We have a passion for giving people authentic food,” said Patriarca, “and we have a passion for serving the community.” The intimacy of the restaurant setting allows for a very familiar, family-style feel to the establishment; the attention to community seen through the relationship between staff, owners, and customers. The small space fills with the energy of everyone communicating with one another over fresh and delicious food. The open kitchen is even lined with a bar top that encourages customers to engage with the secrets behind the delicious nature of their food. “The staff that we have here, it’s not about just coming to get a pay check, it’s about coming in and empowering people, influencing them, and teaching them a skill,” said Patriarca. “Everybody that comes into our presence, we want them to leave with more than they came with.”
As the two men rolled fresh dough on the counter in front of me, dressed in white and smiling as they relay the beginnings of their success, Leheux smiled and said, “New vision 2017…good culture.”