The culinary scene in Boulder is growing. If Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale are any indication, it's also thriving. A New York food writer checks in.
BOULDER, Colorado – They say there are more PhDs per capita in Boulder, Colorado than anywhere else in the United States. They also say that smart people like good restaurants. After doing a little math (counting on fingers motion) and talking with some Boulderite friends of mine, it was clear that I was in for a treat after the making the short drive from Denver to what many believe is the city's best restaurant: Frasca Food and Wine. Well, it's two restaurants if you count the Napoli pizzeria next door. More on that later.
Frasca is the fruits of a partnership between master sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. The duo met in the late 1990s while working together at The French Laundry and joined forces on a restaurant based around their trips to Italy's north eastern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, a wine-centric stretch of land bordering Austria and Slovenia that is as hard to pronounce as it is obscure.
You don't find too many Friulian restaurants around the world because it doesn't quite typify the Italian Cuisine™ that has been Chef Boyardeed into our brains. The wines are mostly white and pasta plays second fiddle to cured pork and aged cheeses like Piave, a nuttier, younger cousin of Parmigiano Reggiano. Frico caldo is one of the region's signature dishes, a golden potato cake that Lachlan serves with speck and a cilantro-sherry vinegar.
The restaurant, open since 2004, serves a popular Monday tasting menu that pulls products from local Colorado farms and points beyond. A recent Monday pork special was built around Eden Farm Berkshire from Iowa and Moretti polenta from Lombardy. Four-course and three-course tasting are available every day. Check the menu online, as changes all the time.
And if pizza is more your jam...well, of course pizza is your jam, you made it this far in a food article about Colorado's best Italian restaurant...Pizzeria Locale, located next door, has the only Stefano Ferrara pizza oven in the Rockies, and they know how to use it. The oven is hot — north of 900 degrees — causing the classic char associated with the pies of Naples.
The buffalo mozzarella is also meticulously sourced from Italy and incorporated on a menu of bianche and rosse pies. Mozzarella di bufala, sweet corn, crème fraiche, and prosciutto cotto tops one; anchovies, capers, olives and roasted garlic another. An order of saffron-spiked arancini is a must, as is a sitting in the striking dining room decorated with the iconic white tiles. This is not a takeout affair.
Then head back to Frasca for a sip of grappa or amaro from Stucky's well-stocked cart. Don't like amaro? No way! You've read this far, you Italian food lover, you.
Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
1730 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
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Photos of arancini and grappa by Matt Rodbard.