Pizzeria Locale offers artisan pizza for the Boulder jet set
By Liz Moskow Camera Dining Critic
Posted: 04/04/2012 03:06:13 PM MDT
Food 3 Stars1/2
Service 2 Stars1/2
Ambience 3 Stars
1730 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-3003, pizzerialocale.com
Hours 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sunday. Daily aperitivo 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Credit cards accepted
Noise level: Medium
Recommended dishes Pizza diavola, pizza maiz, polpettine, arancino, cippolini and speck pizza, artigianale salad.
"I love the black and white
I love the play of light
I love the dark handsome guys
with their skinny little ties dressing mod,
looking out of sight
I love to watch them as they cruise
with their pointy leather shoes
wearing shades in the middle of the nights
Whatever Locale does, it makes me smile,
it's the essence of Italian style..."
OK, so I may have borrowed some or most of the above lyrics from the song "Cinema Italiano" sung by Kate Hudson in the dreadful movie "Nine," but only because it's the exact vibe I get when I go to Pizzeria Locale on east Pearl Street in Boulder.
Both the exterior and the interior of the restaurant have been devised to insinuate the hip, urban feel of modern Naples. Outside, a white facade with stark black signage. Inside, industrial gray paint, mosaic-style white tiled floors and marble countertops.
Photos of urban Italy adorn the walls to add just a touch of warmth. The only splashes of color come from elaborate fresh flower arrangements strategically situated to be seen from anywhere in the space. Favorite dining areas include the outdoor patio overlooking Pearl and the indoor/outdoor marble counter bar.
Although you could arrive to Locale wearing your usual flip-flops and shorts, you might want to slip on your best ode to Sophia Loren: a sundress or European-fitted trousers and an Italian leather shoe combo, just because they'd coordinate well with the "fabulous food for fabulous people" feel.
Presented with the drink menu and extensive wine list by the well-groomed and well-informed server, I chose to try the thistle spritz ($7), an absinthal blend of Cardamaro-blessed thistle and cardoon liquor with Cynar (artichoke) bitters, soda and orange zest -- mostly because it seemed like a posh drink I hadn't tried before and I like the word "thistle."
My companion who couldn't indulge in midday libating opted instead for the bambino ($5), a fresh grapefruit juice sparkler with mint, similar to a Fresca, but livelier.
We chose to begin with artigianale, polpettine and arancino, and while these might sound like great character names for a mod-Italian version of "The Three Musketeers," they're actually just Italian words for delectable appetizers. If I'd had a nonna, I'd imagine she'd concoct a salad very similar to the artigianale ($9). She'd rummage through her icebox to find leftover meats (salami) and cheeses (provolone), throw in a few chickpeas, chop up some radicchio from the garden and toss it all with a copious amount of pungent red wine vinegar. She'd mix in some dried oregano for good measure to make it taste extra Italiano.
This provincial dish was an enhancing accompaniment to our main pizza selections. I found myself wanting to make this my main course for lunch.
Saffron rice balls of amore (Arancino) come stuffed with stretchy, oozy mozzarella. You can order these by the each for $1.50. Fried to crunchy perfection, these little bambinos literally melt in your mouth. Using only rice, cheese and saffron, Locale chefs have captured all of the decadence of risotto in a concise, round package.
Polpettini ($6) pork meatballs with walnut pesto and heaps of basil were so aromatic you could divine them well before they hit the table using just your nose. Five precisely rounded balls of ground pork come christened with the ground nuts, parmigiano, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Portions are delicate enough so that after three appetizers we were still interested in our pizzas.
Transforming a ball of dough into a crisp yet tender pizza crust is an art form at Locale. From the custom-made Stefano Ferrara oven, shipped directly from Naples, to the selection of imported flour used to make the dough, each step in the pizza-making process has been perfected, lending authenticity to the moniker "artisanal pizza."
Like Van Gogh's "Starry Night," swirls of bright-tasting crushed tomato sauce are painted onto the dough canvas. Rounds of salame picante, placed in lieu of stars, burned bright on my tongue when enjoying my favorite pizza, the Diavola, accented with fresh basil and mozzarella di bufala ($14).
My companion enjoyed the Cipolline e Speck pizze, a white pizza featuring mozzarella di bufala, castelvetrano olives, cipollini onion and speck ($16).
The blistered crisp crust was blanketed in an oozing layer of white delectability from the buffalo milk cheese. Sweet roasted cipollinis mingled with the unexpectedly creamy flavor of the bright green olives and saltiness of the speck, leaving a lingering tang on the tongue well after I swallowed my savored bite.
I've enjoyed Locale pizza on gluten-free crust and must mention that I have found it to be the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had, anywhere. However, I must warn you that since they upcharge $3 for this option on any pizza selection, it launches already pricey pies higher into "only on special occasions" orbit. When you're charging $14 for an 11.5-inch pizza, is it really necessary to add a surcharge?
We finished up our lazy afternoon European-style lunch with two desserts: budino, butterscotch pudding ($7), and a slice of Italian decadence, cassata cake ($6.50). Large enough to share, the budino is typically one of the tastiest desserts in Boulder. Usually, the pure luxury of the creamy pudding leaves you sparring with your partner over last licks. As I've had this many times before, I'm confident in recommending it to you, however this time, there was a noticeable lack in butterscotch flavor rendering it only mediocre. Thankfully, the cassata cake more than made up for the misstep. Fragrant with candied orange, the sweet ricotta filling meshed nicely with the spongy chocolate cake, all swaddled in a fine layer of ganache.
Locale is delicious and decadent; there's no disputing that. Well-executed artisan status aside, in general, there's only so many times a year I can justify spending $90 on lunch for two at a pizzeria, even if doing so makes me feel like an Italian starlet on holiday.
Luckily, Locale has recently added an Aperitivo hour every day from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., when frugal foodies can order appetizers, pizza and even a spritzy drink for less than $20 bucks and be fabulous more frequently.