Wood Paddle isn’t just a unique name for this family-friendly pizzeria in Aurora. Rather, the funky shaped oars mirroring mermaid fins are used to decorate the walls while normal shaped paddles are used to slide freshly made pizzas into a teal tiled wood fire oven.
The paddles also represent the owners’ love for river conservation and river guiding as well as serve as a reminder of home — there’s a wooden spoon taken straight out of owner Caleb Roddy’s home kitchen and pinned on the wall. But above all, the paddles show their hard word and sincerity when it comes to every element of their restaurant. Because owners Jared Riggs, Josh Prater and Roddy started this project in August 2018 in hopes of providing quality food and drink with a strong sense of community.
This piece of wood-fired heaven is located on the corner of Buckley Road and Quincy Avenue in a spot that once housed a prominent pizzeria in Aurora. When A-Town Pizza went out of business, the owners of Wood Paddle Pizza jumped at the opportunity to turn eating a lifetime’s worth of pizza and over 20 years of restaurant experience into a promising business.
The dual-use of both a dine-in and fast-casual experience really sets Wood Paddle Pizza apart from the rest. This pizzeria’s energy is like stepping into an episode of Cheers, a local spot where everyone knows your name. One couple that regularly stops by has embellished the top of a passageway leading to the kitchen with over 25 tick marks representing every visit.
A welcoming environment is enough to make any location a neighborhood go-to but it’s the savory pies that keep locals coming back time and time again.
The Neapolitan is served in a uniform 12-inch shape ($9-$14) with an endless amount of ingredients from green Cerignola olives and truffle oil to white anchovies and goat cheese. Aside from the traditional make your own situation— the menu is set with a few staples like a basil, mozzarella and olive oil topped Margherita or a classic three cheese with mozzarella, parmesan and smoked provolone melted into the signature marinara sauce. However, Wood Paddles’ menu wouldn’t be complete without their unique topping options to satisfy those pizza cravings.
The prosciutto ($14) is the most popular item because of its delicious combination of mozzarella, parmesan and salt-cured ham accompanied by artichokes, fresh oregano, truffle oil and roasted garlic. Surprisingly enough, this menu staple was discovered by complete accident. When the owners took over the location there was a few loose ingredients leftover from the previous restaurant—a can of artichokes, a leg of prosciutto and some raw pizza dough. This signature pie was thrown together in the desperation of hunger pains and continues to satisfy the appetites of its frequent visitors.
“We thought it was delicious and we also thought, maybe we’re just really hungry. So, we made it again the next day and that was it. We had to eliminate another pizza from the menu just to add this one,” Roddy said.
Pizza can be eaten anywhere — but at this local spot, gourmet pizza is partnered with a variety of 16 local beers on tap, tabletop Centipede arcade games and loud music vibrating through the air. It’s like finally getting invited to your popular cousins’ house party. Only instead of generic cheese puffs in a bowl, there are dozens of silver saucers carrying thin-crust pies covered in bubbling tomato sauce and smoked ricotta cheese.
With delicious pies like these, Wood Paddle Pizza has become Aurora’s new go-to spot for tasty wood-fired pizzas, cold draft beer and good company.
Wood Paddle Pizza and Tap is located at 17060 E. Quincy Ave. Wood Paddle Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
All Photography by Nick Annis