Here’s what’s wrong with Frasca’s year-old, Neapolitan-style sibling: it’s in Boulder, not Napoli. That’s it & that’s pretty much all (well, I’m still not feeling the year-long trend toward drab-gray walls in restaurants either, but I seem to be alone in that).
And since there’s not much any of us can do about the fact that we exist outside of Italy, I’ve got to give boring, obvious, me-too props to the crew at Pizzeria Locale for giving it their all to transport us in spirit.
For starters, far be it from me to steer you away from the exquisite wines—both Locale’s own pizza-friendly selection & Frasca’s supplemental offerings, justly famous far-&-wide. (After a recent working lunch, I can vouch for the fact that some major players on the national sommelier circuit were all about the underappreciated Locale list.) But truth be told, I’m a sucker for the spritzes, be it the pictured late-summer version made with fresh cantaloupe juice or my recent fave (unpictured), called, IIRC, the Thistle; made with Cardamaro, it’s like a lighter, bitter-er cola.
As for antipasti: I’ve been lucky enough in this life to become jaded about insalata ai frutti di mare. From Venice & Camogli to Atrani & Palermo, I’ve had seafood salads as tear-jerkingly exquisite as arias—this one in particular—& others as shoddy as you’d expect from Olive Garden (one learns to translate congelato the hard way). Locale’s (pictured below right) is, it almost pains me to admit, every bit as good as the best I’ve ever savored in Italy, even seaside, where the calamari is so fresh & tender & buttery it melts your heart. Here, it’s not the likewise excellent, deeply flavor combination of squid, octopus, mussels, clams & shrimp that wows so much as the whole vibrant package, which also boasts crispy thin-sliced potatoes, artichoke hearts, capers & lots of lemony tang. On the left, disks of roasted pepper stuffed with excellent imported tuna pack an awesome wallop as well.
My torrid love affair with Sicilian arancini, documented here, is such that I can’t fairly comment on any stateside version. Suffice it to say these are perfectly good.
Keeping in mind, then, that intensely personal history tends to color all my Italian-food experiences forevermore—that, in short, my standards are extremely high, perhaps even unfairly high—you can rest assured that I believe in Locale, above all where it matters most: in its approach to pizza.
I understand it’s had its share of complaints about the fact that the pies arrive uncut. Folks, Locale is, as we’ve noted, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, & in Napoli (& Perugia & Lucca & anywhere else I’ve ever had pizza in Italy), this is the way pizza is served. If you can’t deal, then by all means skip it in favor of a good old corner parlor slinging head-sized slices you can fold & cram down your craw in seconds flat. (I don’t say that critically; I may be an Italophile, but I’m Kansas-born & Oklahoma-bred, hence fond of shoveling as well as nibbling.) But if you’re on the fence, look at it this way: the knife-&-fork ritual forces you to slow down a little, enjoy the company you’re keeping, maybe even recognize the sensation of fullness before it’s too late.
Anyway, I like just fine the slightly spicy Bianca with buffalo mozz & pecorino, lardon-cut sausage, rapini & garlic—
but I adore the Mais with corn, prosciutto cotto & crème fraîche (+ more buffalo mozz). It’s not often one can call a pizza delicate or subtle; this baby is.
In case you were wondering, corn is not an uncommon pizza topping in Italy, though it is, in my experience, typically combined with chunks of oil-packed tuna over red sauce, senza formaggio (mixing seafood & cheese is verboten there, though that’s one of the few rules of Italian cuisine I’m all for breaking. Come on, shrimp & feta?)
Budino, meanwhile, doesn’t require any life experience to appreciate. It’s butterscotch pudding. Done.