It’s finally Friday evening, gateway to the weekend. Good food and a space to kick back with friends are needed.

Which means you’re likely looking for Fire Pit Friday.

It has atmosphere, pizza, drinks and a fire pit in the shadow of Mount Garfield and it goes from 6–10 p.m. each Friday in the pavilion and on the patio at Varaison Vineyards and Winery, 405 W. First St., in Palisade.

Varaison has hosted Fire Pit Friday for about six years, said Kristin West, who owns Varaison with her husband, Ron.

After fielding the question “where should we go to dinner?” from numerous people at late Friday afternoon wine tastings, the Wests decided to put together a casual Friday food event.

With the help of Ellisa Basch, Varaison’s gastronomist, a lineup of wood-fired pizzas was created to go beyond pepperoni and sausage and to pair well with Varaison’s wines. They named the event Fire Pit Friday and it has developed a loyal local following in addition to out-of-town visitors who stop by.

Each Friday, there are at least three gourmet pizzas available to purchase by the slice and the flavors depend on the availability of ingredients, some of which come from Varaison’s garden just 50 feet from the kitchen, West said.

Among the pizza offerings are Rose’s Pie with a rose petal garnish from the winery’s rose garden, the vegetarian Verdura Bianco Pie and Verdura Rossa Pie, the Jerk Pie with zippy jerk chicken and a Carolina barbecue chicken pie with touches of heat and sweet, West said.

The Figgy Piggy Pie has become Fire Pit Friday’s signature pizza. “It’s marvelous,” she said.

While the other pizzas change each week, the sweet and savory Figgy Piggy is so popular “we pretty much have to have that every (Friday) night or there will be a revolt,” West said.

The pizzas for each Fire Pit Friday are announced and described earlier in the week on Varaison’s Facebook page. The menu for Friday, June 26, will include the Caprese Pie, the Stallone Italiano Pie and, of course, the Figgy Piggy Pie.

With seasonal fruit finally coming in, a Cherry Dessert Pie also will be available. It’s not too sweet and mixes the flavor of cherries with a touch of dark chocolate. “It’s yummy,” West said.

Guests can get suggestions for Varaison wines that pair well with their pizza selection or they can try a hard cider or cool wine cocktail designed by “bartender extraordinaire” Alex West, who also happens to be the Wests’ son.

Families are welcome at Fire Pit Friday, and for young children who tend to snub gourmet, slices of cheese pizza are available as well as water, lemonade and tea, West said.

Each Friday there is a huge, fresh green salad with plenty of garden veggies and a selection of dressings, she said.

“We’re not a restaurant per se,” West said, meaning that off-menu orders aren’t part of the Fire Pit Friday set up. That said, “we do attempt to help people special dietary needs.”

A gluten free crust or dairy free option could be arranged, “but we do ask them to buy that entire pizza,” West said.

Guest can enjoy the evening at a table in the winery’s pavilion or on the patio, where the fire pit can be found. “People love hanging out around that fire pit even in July,” West said.

Sometimes they roast marshmallows, and sometimes there is live music to enjoy as musicians play for tips.

The evening really is casual, West said. “We tell people ‘just come in your shorts.’”

It’s a time to relax at the end of the work week, to sit around and chat over good, unfussy food and drinks. “I think that’s what people come for,” West said.

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