Rosalee’s Pizzeria is an old world East Coast style neighborhood pizzeria in Longmont, Colorado. I sat down with James, the co-owner with his wife, Amy. When I say “old world”, I mean, this guy loves pizza, just a pinch more than building community, which is the heart of what he does.
I mentioned that a kitchen is the heart of a home, a place where life is given. That’s all I had to say to get him excited. “Food and music are the biggest parts of my life, and family and friends. Those are the main food groups,” James says, over a classic cesar salad with house made pizza dough croutons.
“I grew up with pizza; we all grew up with pizza, wherever you’re from. New York, Chicago. Southern California. Pizza is memories. As a kid in high school, after a dance, after your team wins, your team loses. Pizzerias can be a little hub of a community, and that’s certainly what I grew up with.”
James and his wife met in culinary school and he points out that lots of folks come out of C-school and want to start a fine dining restaurant, but that wasn’t where his passion was.
“We wanted to do great pizza, but we wanted the place to be a neighborhood hang. And it’s working.” That’s no lie. In the short time I was there, about 45 minutes, there were at least a half dozen individuals or groups who came through for a slice or a to-go order and waved hi, greeting James with a smile and a handshake. His team is really building community, and it shows. “We get a lot of first timers from the East Coast, from everywhere. I think, on a good night, we really make a lot of people happy. And that’s what it’s all about, for us. The kitchen gets off on it. The front of house get off on it. You wanna make yourself happy, of course, but you wanna make people happy.”
It makes sense. Pizza is the quintessential American, day in – day out food, imported like everything else by immigrants coming to make a new life and build new communities. The pizzeria is the hub of a local community, more so than a bar, because it’s family based. Pizza is the food that matters. You feel sick? Just grab a pizza on the way home. You wanna celebrate? Pizza party. It doesn’t matter what it is. Pizza serves the need, and James agrees. “It’s a multi-occasion…like, not to sound cheesy, it brings comfort.”
James made a point to travel and discover pizza, in order to make food that’s quality, but not gourmet. Big pies, great ingredients, lots of love, a place where the seats being filled is as important as the smiles in the aisles. A fan of chinese food and carnitas when he’s not eating pizza, a guy who dressed his pizzeria in Colorado pub style – music posters and instruments, the requisite Colorado iconography – James is Scottish, not from a pizza family, but decided in 2014 to make the dream a reality.
The mission: to make simple food as well as they can. “I feel something’s good when you can’t describe why it’s good. That’s what I try to do on a good day.” They’ve been having good days since the idea occurred to them, way back in 2010, on the way home from Iowa. That’s when they began the travels – New Haven, the five boroughs – talking pizza, tasting pizza, taking notes and planning for the goodness that is Rosalee’s today. And Rosalee’s today is somewhere you want to be if you value community, developing relationships that last, if you want to go somewhere that remembers you and smiles when you come in, a place that wants for a legacy one simple thing: for you to grow old and think back over your time at Rosalee’s as time well spent. “I want people to remember Rosalee’s. ‘I remember that place, they always made me feel welcome.’ When they’re old and gray, to remember us with a smile.”