Pizzeria Locale is my neighborhood pizzeria. I live one block away and take great pleasure in their contemporary Napolitano style pizza. Their pizzaiolo, Jordan Wallace, studied the art of pizza in Napoli, and I dare say he’s one of the best pizzaioli in the US, especially if we’re talking about pizzaioli who serve the wet, uncut Napoli style pizza.
When Locale announced their first guest pizzaiolo event with Chris Thompson of A 16, San Francisco, I cleared some space in my calendar. The A 16 dinner was three courses for $18 per person, which, by the way, is the most reasonably priced meal I’ve had in a long time. As with any visit to Pizzeria Locale, we started out with some spritzers. I enjoyed the IPA (Indian Pale Americano) spritz which, like a traditional Americano cocktail, features Campari, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda water, and some of their house made hops bitters. My friend Matt, a total gourmand who had not yet been to the pizzeria, enjoyed a Rabarbaro Zucca spritz- a simple spritz of dark amaro and soda water. I’m also constantly craving Locale’s arancini, so we ordered four perfectly crispy balls of risotto to go with our spritzers.
And let’s not forget to mention the lovely couple across from us that evening: Lacey and Paul of DiNalo Glassware. You’ll see some fine glass straws in my drinks in this post and from now on- Once you sip a cocktail from a DiNalo straw…
First came our insalata with escarole, pickled and roasted grapes, caciocavallo, and saba.
I never even read the menu, so my first bite of salad with the grapes was quite a pleasant surprise. Why didn’t I read the menu? It was a bit hectic… There were so many pizza fans dining out that evening, that I walked in to a bustling pizzeria full of friends, associates, and Locale staff, all eager to say hi, chit chat… and then once I brought out the glass straws… talk about a conversation piece. They’re pretty in Locale’s water glasses-
Anyway, arancini, check. Insalata, check. Next in line was Le Pizze- either a bianca with mozzarella di bufala, radicchio di treviso, prosciutto cotto, garlic, oregano, and parmesan, or una rossa with provola di bufala, cavolo nero kale, tomato, red onion, parmesan, and chili flakes. How is one to choose? Well, between the four of us we ordered two of each. Simple.
There are few things that I enjoy more than eating pizza with a knife and fork, by the way. That’s just one small reason I’m such a huge fan of this place. But, I got to see a side of Locale I’d not known before- They were so crowded when we arrived that they set up the Caffè with a four-top and a two-top. It was a more private dining experience being in the cozy private room (known as Frasca’s caffè during the day), yet we were attended to as you’d expect within the Frasca family of establishments.
Let’s see, dear reader… what else happened? We enjoyed a bottle of southern Italian red wine with the meal (it doesn’t matter which bottle, it was quite drinkable with pizza and friends), and before dessert, I left the private dining room to say hi to some people and snap photos. Next thing I knew, manager Chris Donato was bringing my friends on a mini private food tour to check out the kitchen and get a behind the scenes view of the pizzeria. I jumped on board, of course. I love getting near the 1000 degree Stefano Ferrara pizza oven. That right there is something worth writing home about.
We returned to our table and found some dolce there- we had a chocolate budino with sea salt and olive oil, which I had actually been looking forward to all day since Locale posted a photo of it on their Facebook page earlier that morning. We also sipped, in the Italian tradition, a little amaro while guest Chef Chris Thompson was at our table talking about pizza, pizzerias, being a guest chef at Locale… and all kinds of food topics, such as glass straws, that we were able to squeeze into the few minutes he had to say hello.
Writing this makes me want to go to Pizzeria Locale for dinner tonight, as I truly believe that any day is a perfect day for a Locale pizza. But, more to the point- I’m looking forward to future guest chef evenings at Locale. It’s a great way to bring a little bit of the rest of the world into our perfect little Boulder bubble while sharing great pizza.
My third way to show him how much I care involves a tasty libation- a cocktail. And not just any cocktail, but a classic… an Old Fashioned.
I used the recipe from Eric Felten’s book “How’s Your Drink?” and was pleased with the result. According to Felten, in 1940 the New Yorker called the Old Fashioned “a national institution,” and if you’re going to make one at home, be sure to use American whiskey- either bourbon or rye. I used Bulleit Rye because I like the spicy flavor and it’s often a great price compared to other Rye Whiskies.
Felten’s recipe calls for:
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 pieces of lemon peel
- 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- orange slice or maraschino cherry (optional)
First, put the sugar, bitters, lemon peel, and a couple drops of water in a glass and muddle it to dissolve the sugar. Then add the whiskey, ice, and stir…. I learned from Evan Faber to stir it 50 times, so I had fun with that. I skipped the orange and cherries and garnished it with a lemon twist.
When a classically trained chef/baker/chocolatier invites you to dinner at his place, just say yes. It’s that simple. Nathan Miller hosted a little soiree and I did not leave hungry. There was food for nibbling, lots of wine, beer, brie, bread, cheese and charcuterie. Then Nathan’s roommate made some proscuitto goat cheese flatbread.
Pasta with a chunky sauce that brought my taste buds back to living in Spain with my host mom. She made a sauce like this. Nathan topped our bowls with celery, fresh herbs, spinach, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Homemade goodness.
He started to make a dry caramel sauce, which apparently is made more quickly than traditional caramel. I’ve never made caramel sauce, so I saddled up next to the chef for a little Q&A while he worked.
There’s definitely butter in caramel sauce.
Grapefruit topped with vanilla ice cream, graham crackers, and caramel sauce. Yes please, and Thank You!