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Food and place porn: Pizzeria Locale's opening night

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"There's no other style of pizza in the world that's as geeky as the Napolitano style," chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson said last night, as the pace started to pick up at Pizzeria Locale during its first official dinner service. "And we're trying to do it exactly right."

"Makes our jobs pretty hard," added Bobby Stuckey with a grin.

Hard, first of all, because the two, who also own Boulder's Frasca Food & Wine (where, yes, I once worked), were unwilling to cut corners on anything, including their equipment. And that delayed the eatery's opening by two months after their first pizza oven, meant to be constructed in the space, was held and destroyed by U.S. Customs because of soil in the box. After that tragedy, the Ferrara family built the group another oven in Italy and shipped it whole; it took a crane to get the massive thing into place.

"But in Naples, pizza's only considered to be done right if it's made in one of two ovens," explained MacKinnon-Patterson, dismissing the idea of finding a domestically made substitute. "The Ferrara is one of them." Getting the right oven was key, because Stuckey and MacKinnon-Patterson wanted a true Napolitano pizzeria, not a Napolitano-inspired pizzeria. And so they scrutinized every detail -- from the decor to the dough -- to make sure that their new place was as close as they could come to a joint in that city in Campagna.

Behold the fruits of their labor.

Like the original Frasca, Pizzeria Locale has a dining room that's sleek and beautiful, full of dark woods, marble and clean lines. But it has the air of a pizzeria, too. Photographs by Dave Woody, a local photographer who was recently contracted to do portraits for the Smithsonian, depict scenes from Naples displaying graffiti, dirty streets and colorful characters. And fluorescent lights, a raucous noise level and choice decor details extend that theme further. Paper placemats feature information on San Marzano tomatoes, Vespas and Italian football players. "We know this might be controversial in Boulder," explained Cristin Napier, the office manager for the group. "But they always have Jesus on display in Naples." Jesus sits above the bar, which features Scarpetta Barbera and Pinot Grigio on tap (and will soon pour a locally made kolsch from Crystal Springs Brewing). Even the to-go boxes get special treatment at Pizzeria Locale, featuring more photos from Woody. The focus of the room is on the pizza bar, behind which the head pizzaiolo, Jordan Wallace, and his team fire pizzas in that custom-built oven. And if MacKinnon-Patterson and Stuckey are geeking out about their new restaurant, Wallace is taking it to an entirely new level. The chef trained with pizza-makers in Napoli for months, and he's got very specific ideas about creating the real thing here. The fire in the oven has to be built to the side so pizzas are cooked evenly on the top and bottom. The dough for each crust has the same specific weight. And all of those crusts get stretched the exact same way. That pays off. "The crust is just where I want it now," said Wallace. That crust is rich and chewy, thin and soft in the center and fluffier around the edges. It gets topped about fifteen different ways. We first tried the traditional Margherita, with sweet and savory milled San Marzano tomatoes, stretchy and decadent mozzarella di bufala and a few leaves of fresh basil, baked slightly crispy by the oven, which also imparts a lightly bitter char to the dough. We also enjoyed the Mais pizza, a combination of sweet corn, silky slices of prosciutto cotto, tart creme fraiche and more mozzarella. We supplemented the pizzas with a selection of insalate and cotorni. We started with the one-bite arancini, deep-fried balls of saffron risotto injected with gooey mozzarella. The polpettine, pungent veal meatballs bathed in walnut pesto, were sublime, a highlight of the meal. The marechiaro salad mixed chunks of succulent tuna, firm shell beans and salty capers (we held the olives) over a crisp bed of romaine, lightly dressed in lemon and olive oil. The frutti di mare salad blended octopus, shellfish and calamari with artichokes, capers and potatoes. And, of course, we made quick work of dessert. Our favorite was the budino, an ethereally light butterscotch pudding topped by delicate whipped cream. The saltimbocca con Nutella, which took rich, chocolatey Nutella and enclosed it in more chewy pizza dough, was a close second. And even the cassata, a chocolate cake layered with sweet ricotta, candied orange, almonds and pistachios, didn't disappoint.

Pizzeria Locale is now open for lunch and dinner. For more information, call 303-442-3003.

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