We love pizza. Slap some cheese, sauce, and toppings on some dough and bake it? We’re in. But it somehow still took us over a year to make it out to Eepa’s Pizzeria in Bayfield. Fortunately, we recently had a chance to rectify this oversight.
The pizza place opened in June 2019, in the building on the corner of Mill Street and Bayfield Parkway that once held the Bayfield Diner. Melissa and Rob Gaston started the business as a way of accomplishing one of Rob’s lifelong dreams — to open a pizzeria — (Rob worked in them for much of his life, both before and after serving in the Navy).
“I couldn’t really find a pizza that I really liked anywhere, so I started making them myself,” Gaston told The Durango Herald last year.
And now that we know the owners’ names, we can’t get the song from “Beauty and the Beast” out of our heads. “Eepa,” by the way, is how the Gastons’ son, Tieren, pronounced pizza as a small child.
Anyway, we dropped by Bayfield on a very warm September day to see how the pizza place stacks up against its local competition. We immediately enjoyed the ska-punk music they were playing around the building. Speaking of ska, one of the specials they had when we dropped by was an Oktoberfest Pizza, featuring a provolone and cheddar beer cheese sauce made with Ska Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest lager, mozzarella, bratwurst, grilled onions, and sauerkraut. We thought it was quite creative, but ... we didn’t order it. Sorry. We just weren’t feeling sauerkraut pizza at the time. (You go order it and then come back and convince us to.)
Instead, we started with one of the most fun items on Eepa’s menu, and also probably one of the simplest: the Pepperoni Egg Rolls. The image that just popped into your head as you read that is pretty much exactly what they are — egg roll wrappers stuffed with pepperoni, mozzarella, and pizza seasonings, which are then fried. They’re like Totino’s Pizza Rolls, except they’re good and classy and large (about the size of a rolled-up fist, assuming you have small- to medium-sized hands). They come with a cup of the pizzeria’s house marinara, which is delightfully chunky and something you might not notice if you stuck just to the pizza.
(Side note: Have you ever noticed that the egg rolls you get in Asian restaurants across America don’t really showcase the egg as an ingredient, assuming they contain egg at all? They should be called “cabbage rolls.” From a language standpoint, an “egg roll” should be something akin to a breakfast burrito.)
The egg rolls were great and pizzalicious, but also quite filling. They’re mostly a melted glob of mozzarella. This isn’t a complaint — just an observation about their supreme cheesiness.
We followed the appetizer with Eepa’s Ranchero Pizza, which includes red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, ground beef, red onion, fresh jalapeños, and green chilies. For once, it wasn’t the green chiles that attracted us to it — we were really feeling meat and jalapeño-y that day.
The pizza felt very authentic as a wood-fired pie, with the characteristic thin layer of char on the crust. The ingredients tasted fresh, especially the plant-based ones, and the red sauce really stands out once you cut through the melted cheese. Despite ordering one of the pizzas with the most toppings, the flavor profile wasn’t terribly complicated. Rather, there was a beauty to its simplicity: dough, sauce, cheese, meats, and plants, with some spices thrown in there for good measure.
We’ll definitely be back. The pizzeria is in the middle of a transition phase and there’s no indoor seating, but the patio is open. And, naturally, you can get the pizza to go.