The busy intersection of Union and Palmer Park boulevards is no place to keep a secret, which could explain why Leon Gessi New York Pizza is so popular. It’s a neighborhood joint that attracts people from all over Colorado Springs.
For more than 44 years, Leon Gessi has been serving thin-crust, high-quality pizza with homemade touches that keep people coming.
The restaurant’s most distinguishing physical aspect is its oblong shape. As soon as you open the door, you’ll likely find yourself in line to place an order at the counter. This is also where beer, wine and salads are picked up. Entrees are brought to the table. The two dining areas, plus a small patio, are nothing special. It’s all about the food here.
The menu is composed of pizzas, by the slice or whole pies, calzones, subs and salads. A few starters are offered, but we started with house salads. They were the nightly special, meaning the price was reduced by 59 cents. The large serving of mixed greens ($3.59) is topped with fresh, flavorful tomatoes, black olives, red onion and red pepper. It’s practically a meal in itself. The small roll, made from pizza dough, is a nice touch and perfect to dip into the Italian dressing served on the side.
Other nightly specials are discounts on beverages, starters and pizza. The real draw, though, is the Tuesday all-you-can-eat pizza-and salad.
Tuesdays “are a bit crazy,” an employee acknowledged. She recommended arriving before 5 p.m. or after 7 p.m. As if the $8.49 price weren’t enough of a deal and invitation to overeat, the special also includes a soft drink.
Leon Gessi features five specialty pizzas, and we opted for a large ($19.99) Kitchen Sink, which boasts nearly, but not quite, all available toppings. I don’t see how more toppings could have been added. The sausage, pepperoni, bacon, Canadian bacon, sliced meatballs, green peppers, onions, black olives, red peppers and mushrooms were more than plenty.
The best part was the crust, which was thin but didn’t tear under the weight of all of the above. Indeed, it was light, crispy and could be folded easily, if desired, a la New York City tradition.
The fact that the meatballs are homemade made that 8-inch sub irresistible ($7.19). The meatballs are sliced thin, giving the sandwich a different look while making it much less messy to eat. The sub has only a small amount of sauce, but the serving of marinara on the side was easy to dip into. The toasted hoagie bun never fell apart or lost its shape. Sandwiches are served with a bag of chips and a pickle on the side.
The sausage on the grinder ($6.89) was hand-shaped to fit the bun. Again, this made for ease of eating, but the appearance was a bit odd. The sausage was spicier than expected, unlike that heaped on the pizza. Both the sub and grinder included red and green peppers with mozzarella. The cheese was added with a light hand so the focus was on the meats.
There was plenty of takeout action, and the tables were mostly full the night of our visit. Staff is friendly and busy. My friends and I wondered why we don’t venture to Leon Gessi more often; it’s not that far from most parts of town.