Sweet and spicy may not sound like a winning proposition for a donut recipe, but at Donut Oven along Purcell Avenue in Pueblo West, they’ve proven to be a smash hit.
Owned by husband-wife team Tony and Lucy Ragozzine, the restaurant just celebrated its fifth anniversary last month. Five years ago, when he first set up shop, Ragozzine wanted to do something in honor of the annual Pueblo Chile and Frijole festival.
“The Pueblo Chile pepper is so well-known,” he says. “I thought well, I wonder if they sell the powder for it. So I went to Musso Farms, and they had a little packet of it there.”
Ragozzine combined the powder with his vanilla cake donut recipe, and after a period of trial and error, finally landed on a recipe that he liked.
“It took me three weeks. And I can tell you, the first few people who bought one — they were really hot,” he says, laughing. “So it took me about three weeks to get the right balance. But once we got that, they’ve been the same ever since.”
The donuts are only readily available at the shop during the summer months when Pueblo chiles are in season — June through August. Outside of that window, customers can still call ahead the day before to secure an order of the spicy pastries.
“This is a Pueblo thing, and I don’t want to use a non-Pueblo chile.” Ragozzine says, explaining that the powder he uses for the pastries can be harder to source at certain times of the year, and he wouldn’t want to run out.
Despite that, Ragozzine says that he sells dozens each week during the off-season, all of the special orders. Not only is a Pueblo Chile donut something unique to Pueblo it’s also something you can’t get anywhere else in the state.
“When we first opened up, we actually had it trademarked by the state,” Ragozzine explains. This came in handy several years ago, when a rival donut shop tried to recreate the recipe, and Ragozzine had to call them up and get them to stop.
To hear the stories Ragozzine has to tell about demand, it’s not much of a surprise that someone else would try to get a piece of the action. Ever since the first few batches, he says the flavor has been inspiring loyalty among regulars and newcomers alike.
“I think it was the first month, or second month, a friend of ours brought her family,” Ragozzine recalls. “Her sister was pregnant, and she said, ‘Well I don’t know if I should even try one of these, but I just think it’s so interesting I’m gonna try it.’ So she tried it, they went home, and about a week later that customer came back in and said ‘Do you think you could make me a dozen of those?’
“And I said ‘Yeah, no problem. What’s it for?’
“And she goes, ‘Well when my sister was here she had one, and she loved them.’
“Well they live in New York,” Ragozzine says. “She paid $60 to send a dozen of those donuts to her sister in New York because her sister was craving them so bad.”
Donut Oven is located at 198 S Purcell Blvd Ste#110, in Pueblo West. It’s open seven days a week.