The glowing Pizzability sign on the outside of this little restaurant in Cherry Creek looks like your run of the mill pizzeria but when you dig a little deeper, this pizza shop offers much more than expected. At Pizzability, being different is the norm. About 95% of its employees have disabilities.
In December of 2018, the first and only location opened after three years of success with its sister company, Brewability. Owner Tiffany Fixter is equipped with a 13-year career teaching elementary kids with disabilities. She realized a serious lack of job opportunities for her students once they graduated and went into the workforce. The ability to work at a restaurant with so many facets in its day to day operations help each of her 25 employees learn valuable life skills, build friendships and earn a living just like everyone else.
Because Fixter first opened a brewery with the same concept — providing manageable jobs for those with special needs, she decided that a pizzeria would be simple enough. As far as structure and consistency for her employees, making pizzas was the way to go. Also, you can never go wrong when combining pizza and beer. Pizzability offers 16-inch pies or single slices with either beer or wine. The shop also offers delicious scoops of gelato to match the Italian pizzeria theme and offer something sweet for its frequent juvenile visitors.
Both the pizzeria and brewery work hand in hand. The pizza dough is made with the same grain used to brew beer at Brewability. The classic cheese and pepperoni pizza are always a go-to but it’s the Green Chile Chicken pizza that elevates the menu a few degrees. The sweetness from the dough counters the spiciness of the green chile chicken that’s melted into the gooey mozzarella cheese.
Each pizza is made by hand and ready to order. The way this kitchen works for its employees is a step by step guideline with detailed pictures — since every pizza isn’t made the same, each has its own ingredients and steps, so the pictures make it is easy to follow.
Upon ordering, the manager grabs a chunk of dough, rolls it out in a machine and sends it down the line. Once the dough is ready to be garnished, the employee assigned to that task then refers to the respective card — guiding them to brush butter on the crust, sauce it, sprinkle it with cheese and pile on the necessary toppings. The pie then goes into the oven and bakes with love, hard work and heat of course.
If you happen to stop in while Tony Saponaro is working, he will gladly talk to you for hours about everything under the sun. Saponaro has been with Pizzability since the very beginning. He is a very enthusiastic individual with a lot of love and passion for cooking. The 28-year-old has had various jobs under his belt like working at Panera Bread and St. Anthony’s Hospital but it’s the job at Pizzability that really challenges him. He does a lot of productive work and gets to move around whereas at other jobs that was frowned upon. “It’s like a puzzle, I’m always being challenged mentally at work,” Saponaro said.
Fixter has made this job a community for her employees by giving them the freedom to be themselves while also teaching them how to assimilate their skills into different tasks like making pizza, filling orders or taking inventory. “It’s nice having a boss that genuinely cares about you. Free pizza is definitely a perk of this job, too,” Saponaro said smiling.
Pizzability has found value in a group of people that sometimes society has not. The mission of this restaurant is inclusion. Those with disabilities both as employees and customers are welcomed at Pizzability without any judgment and there are a lot of accessories offered to make the experience an easy one. And Fixter has done an impeccable job making accessibility pretty. The restaurant is chock-full of various touches that keep people with disabilities in mind. On one side of the shop there is a sensory corner with a bubble wall and lit up marble installment.
Even simple things like sitting still for a meal or picking up a fork can be difficult at a restaurant that isn’t equipped with tools for people with disabilities. Pizzability offers a ton of different accessories to help fidgety diners stay focused and eat with weighted lap mats and silverware.
“Some kids have successfully had their first meals here. Even adults with disabilities ate well for the first time with weighted silverware. It’s really just a great chance to experience a place and community with access,” Fixter said.
Additionally, small details like fluorescent lighting that can cause seizures and is taken into consideration at this pizza shop. The soda fountains, bathroom doors and menus all have braille as well to provide a more inclusive experience for the visually impaired. Fixter didn’t want the vibe of this restaurant to feel like a classroom rather a more comfortable and home-like environment. She has clearly succeeded in creating an all-encompassing community that isn’t dripping in braille or sensory tools. To an uninformed person, it would take quite a while to pick up on those features but to someone that relies on these details, it feels like home.
Pizzability’s sister business, Brewability was located on I-70 and Peoria but unfortunately had to close due to the non-renewal of its business license by the state for being a non-typical business. The new location is set to open in Englewood on September 28.
For Pizzabilty, head to Cherry Creek to grab a slice of the Green Chile Chicken pizza for a bit of savory spice and a table near the counter for a sweet conversation with one of Pizzability’s amazing pizza slingers.
Pizzability is located at 250 Steele St., Denver. Pizzability is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
All Photography by Jason Stilgebouer