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Pizzeria Locale: Will Frasca's dough boys get a pizza the fast-casual action?

Pizzeria Locale: Will Frasca's dough boys get a pizza the fast-casual action?
Danielle Lirette
At Denver’s Pizzeria Locale, you can find American standards or Neapolitan classics like this maiale, with red sauce, arugula and prosciutto crudo.

At the risk of sounding crass, I'm going to start this review in a place that gets no air time in 99.9 percent of food coverage: the bathroom. (I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.)

I bring up the bathroom in Denver's Pizzeria Locale not just because it's spotless, as bathrooms should be, or because that's where you'll end up if you've had a few glasses of house red with your pie. I do so because there, enlarged to cover the ceiling, is a picture of an old stone wall in Naples with flower-filled window boxes and a portrait of a long-haired, smiling man who can only be Jesus. Now, I'm no expert in these matters, but it's got to be a sin at least in Naples, the birthplace of floppy, thin-crusted Neapolitan pizza to do your business under the son of God.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Pizzeria Locale

Location Info

Map

Pizzeria Locale

550 Broadway Blvd
Denver, CO 80203

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Denver

Details

Pizzeria Locale
Margherita $6.50
Mais $8.50
Bianca $8
Maiale $6
Cheese $5.50
Supreme $9
Pork meatballs $3.50
Budino $1.50
550 Broadway, Unit C
720-508-8828
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

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If so, that isn't the only sin that owners Lachlan Patterson and Bobby Stuckey have committed here. Not that anyone, at least anyone who's never held a rosary, would mind, given the high-quality, ridiculously affordable pizza that hits your table in two minutes flat.

You know the saying about how you've got to know the rules to break them? Patterson and Stuckey, who put Boulder on the national food map with their flagship restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, certainly know the rules of classic pizza-making. Both have been to Naples several times, and the Denver restaurant's opening team of operations director Chris Donato and culinary director Jordan Wallace spent time in Italy before helping launch the original Pizzeria Locale in Boulder in 2011.

This is a crew that knows the time-honored way to mix dough, adding caputo flour at certain intervals but never in the final five minutes. They know how to let the dough rest, how to shape it into tight balls so that the dough doesn't stick to the tray as it proofs, and how to slap not toss it into shape. And they know how to heat the oven to a searing 1,000 degrees. But as businessmen, they also know that consistency comes from machines, not men. And for purists, that's where the second sin comes in.

In Naples as well as in the original Boulder location of Locale, you can follow all the above rules and still burn, undercook or otherwise ruin a pie. It takes months of training, not to mention much "struggling and crying," Patterson told me only half-jokingly to train a pizzaiolo, the guy with the long-handled pizza peel moving pies around the oven. So for their Denver restaurant, he and Stuckey broke with tradition and worked with engineers to design a rotational hearth oven powered by gas and infrared, the only one of its kind in the world. All a pizzaiolo has to do is put it on the moving track and voila! Artisanal pizza, two minutes later, with a little human wiggle room to measure speckling and doneness of fully loaded pies. Why go to all the expense? Because unlike the original Pizzeria Locale, which is Frasca's friend-with-benefits given its next-door location, this Pizzeria Locale is built with potential replication in mind.

That's a good thing and a bad thing. If you're one of the many who braved traffic on U.S. 36 to eat at Pizzeria Locale on Pearl Street and come to Broadway looking for the same wine list, attentive host, table service and frutti de mare to go along with your charred-crust pies, you'll be disappointed. This is Pizzeria Locale, Steve Ells-style, where you order at the counter and watch a line of white-shirted, red-hatted employees spoon toppings from metal containers onto dough that's loaded onto the spinning oven floor. The menu here is abbreviated, with a handful of ten-inch "Neapolitan classics," plus several American favorites like pepperoni and supreme and a build-your-own option with 26 toppings to choose from. The atmosphere is edgy, not elegant, with louder music, white-tiled walls and floors, black metal lighting fixtures and more graffiti in the same series of David Woody photographs that hang on both restaurants' walls.

But if you forget all that and just eat, or if you drop by not knowing this restaurant's lineage, you'll come across the finest iteration of fast-casual that the city dare I say the country? has ever seen. My favorites cluster in the Neapolitan classics: the mais, with corn kernels, ham and crème fraîche; the Bianca, with sausage, broccolini and chile flakes; and the maiale, with red sauce, arugula and prosciutto crudo. The margherita, my normal go-to, is identical to the cheese in the "American classics" section, except for the game-changing addition of large leaves of basil. I wish it had a little less cheese, in order to let those tomatoes really shine but that puts me in the minority, since most Americans like lots of mozzarella. While not dumped on as they would be at Pizza Hut, ingredients aren't stingily placed, either, so there's no need to scramble for the first slice with all the good stuff.

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9 comments
dinergirl
dinergirl

I'll miss that frutti di mare...spectacular. Although, I did find the service at the Boulder location a bit stuffy and condescending.

dizmi123
dizmi123

The crust definately gets soggy after 5 minutes of eating. Sauce is delicious, but overall i'd much rather go to Fat Sullys just a couple blocks down.

milehighjoe
milehighjoe

It's called "crust" for a reason.  This was more like "mush" with the occasional char spots.  Sorry, no.

Denver Dave
Denver Dave topcommenter

I have to agree with jrojasaboc - we hated it.  If this is an accurate representation of real Neapolitan pizza then we're not fans of the genre.  Didn't care for the salads either - enough with the arugula already.  Perhaps we are just Denver rubes who don't know any better but we know what we like and this ain't it.

jrojasaboc
jrojasaboc

Oh and by the way. Frasca's is one of my top 5 best restaurants to eat at.

jrojasaboc
jrojasaboc

Worst pizza I ever had in Denver. I live in this neighborhood. Go to Pie Hole or even Fat Sully's. The service is fast but the dough is undercooked at a mere 2 minute cook time. Reminiscent of the Amy's bakery featured on kitchen nightmares. So if you like chewy ass dough and undercooked watery veggies and scant toppings. By all means go. Plus the limited green options is just crappy. I love arugula but come on!

Chelly Serna
Chelly Serna

Really yummy pizza. I just wish their salads weren't so expensive.

ginbearit
ginbearit

@jrojasaboc How does Frasca Food and Wine become Frasca's? Why the need to show possesion? Can somebody at Westword wake Jen W up so she can address this Denver phenomenon - hopefully in a real snarky tone? Stueben's I get, but Cho Lon's or Old Major's ... come on D town!


 
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