Pizzeria Locale is all it’s cracked up to be
The third try was the charm for my husband and me to get into Pizzeria Locale, the upscale pizzeria launched last winter by Frasca Food & Wine. The first time was shortly after it opened, but with a wait of 40 minutes or so, we went elsewhere. The second time was at about 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon, but Locale doesn’t open until 4:00, so again, we took our pizza appetite to another place. We kept hearing compliments, reading mostly rave (but some less enthusiastic) reviews and intending to try again. Today, we finally hit it right and were seated as soon as we walked in the door. Twenty minutes later, every seat was occupied and a line was building.
The Frasca connection is evident. The single opulent floral arrangement in the center of the space echoes the original. The careful attention to every design detail, and the correct and knowledgeable service are characteristics of both. So is the attention to customers. The manager looked familiar, so I figured he had worked at Frasca. He recognized us from having “taken care” of us “on the other side.” He sees a lot more people every day than we do, and trust me, our budget does not enable us to be Frasca regulars — and it had been months since our last visit. His name is Chris (we reintroduced ourselves), and I was impressed.
Pizzeria Locale is an immaculately designed place that is lively without being overly loud, contemporary without being wild-and-crazy-looking, classy but informal. There are no table linens, but rather paper placemats printed with different stories — mine was about San Marzano tomatoes, my husband’s about Totò, reputedly the best Italian comic ever.
There is patio seating, but we were indoors, and I had a view straight to the open kitchen and the imported Italian pizza oven that fell victim to the overzealous Department of Homeland Security. As the Denver Post reported, “An Italian family made the oven and shipped it to Houston. The block of Italian dirt and bricks perplexed U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in the city; eventually, they destroyed it, fearing terrorism. [Frasca partner Bobby] Stuckey had to pay Customs $11,000 for their handiwork. He had another one made, and it was sent to New York City. A train carried the oven to Union Station in Denver. A truck carted it to Frasca” in subzero weather, where it is as much a visual focal point as a fireplace in a parlor and produces terrific pizza too.
Drinking & Eating at Pizzeria Locale
I ordered a glass of Caldora Montepulciano from Pizzeria Locale’s own small wine list, though it is possible to get anything from next-door Frasca’s more imposing list. My husband picked a natural, unpasturized ale called Duchesse De Bourgogne brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium, and allowed to mature in oak. It turned out to be a fruity, sweet, effervescent red ale that foamed with a big head when poured into a wineglass.
We definitely were in the mood for pizza. All are hand-formed, so they look quite different in shape. My husband’s was round, while mine was oblong. The super-thin crust is baked into until lightly charred on the bottom, and it is served hanging over the edge of the plate. The kitchen does not cut the pizza, which was a lively discussion topic on Chowhound.com. The idea is to eat it with knife and fork, but I cut some and then picked it up and folded it over (sorry, put manners in storage). The edge is sturdy enough to hold, while the sauce soaks into to the center of the ultra-thin crust –soft to begin with and softer as it absorbs the sauce. I folded the center toward the crust. It was like dipping flat bread bread into a really good sauce.
One dessert, two forks is our usual modus operandi — and our delusion that by sharing, we are not over-indulging.
Until visiting Pizzeria Locale, I never thought about a “special occasion” pizza, but now I do. And I know I’ll be going back.
Price check: Salads, $7-12; contorni (small plates that can be starters or sides), $1.50-$5, plus $11 or $25 for a selection of hand-cut salame; desserts, $2-$10.