Boulder's Best Italian Dining Spots: The Godfathers of Pasta and Pizza
By Hope Gately
Boulder Local Expert
At 10Best, we're always on the lookout for Boulder's best restaurants, and while we appreciate places that have a broad culinary range, we can't help but adore restaurants that specialize in a given cuisine. When we're in the mood for Italian food in Boulder, we head to Alba Ristorante - a reader favorite - or we count on Laudisio's solid track record and consistently great dishes. You'll find these places - and any of the restaurants on our list - to be fantastic options for Italian cuisine, and if you're looking to concentrate your efforts, start with the vibrant Downtown area.
For simplistic elegance, visit Arugula de Ristorante and be sure to sample their decadent cheese and cured meats. If you're wandering Pearl Street and have a craving for some "za", Pizzaria Locale offers enchanting patio seating and delicious pizza concoctions straight from their brick oven.
For a more laidback and salt-of-the-earth atmosphere, venture to Backcountry Pizza where there are more than 50 beers on tap, the pizzas are as big as car tires, and the traditional Italian dishes are sure to please. Whether you're looking for a black tie evening or a jeans and t-shirt kinda night, allow 10 Best to wine and dine you to a bella notte of your very own.
10 Backcountry Pizza & Tap House
For a relaxed and salt-of-the-earth environment, try Backcountry Pizza and Tap House. With more than 50 beers on tap, gigantic pizzas, and scrumptious pasta concoctions that will satisfy any Italian craving, this local dive is a favorite for beer and pizza lovers alike. The Chicken Parmesan and Meatball Sub are both excellent options for those who like traditional Italian, and for those who'd like to go the more adventurous route, The Hot Mob: ham, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, and Italian dressing. Our personal favorite, the Nediterranean, blends pesto & red sauce, pine nuts, garlic, roasted red peppers, artichokes, kalamata olives, feta to create one of the most hearty and mouthwatering pizzas in the west. (3034494285)
9 Bácaro Ristorante
This Pearl Street restaurant offers Tuscan cuisine served in softly lit, contemporary surroundings. Start with a Parmesan cheese basket lightly fried to retain its shape and then filled with polenta and saut�ed wild mushrooms. Pasta dishes include spinach fettuccine with chicken cream sauce and seafood linguine with fresh basil in a light tomato sauce. One superb dish features free-range chicken breast rolled in Parma prosciutto with radicchio and smoked mozzarella and served with warm zucchini. Known for exceptional service, you're sure to be treated to an authentic and hospitable Italian dining experience. If you prefer to drink your dessert, be sure to try the fruity and sweet sangria. (303-444-4888)
8 Alba Ristorante
Enjoy irresistible Northern Italian cuisine, an excellent wine list, outstanding service, and a cozy atmosphere at this funky styled restaurant. Appetizers include steamed Prince Edward Island mussels and Maine crab cakes. Entr�es are both classically and innovatively prepared and include fresh pasta and risotto dishes. Seafood dishes include peppercorn encrusted ahi tuna. For a starter salad try the Alba's crisp Caesar with organic romaine, garlic croutons, anchovies, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and follow it with the decadent Lasagne Verdi alla Bolognese: Organic nettle pasta, Wagyu beef and Berkshire pork rag�, and Parmigiano make this dish the lasagna powerhouse sure to satisfy. To compliment your meal, we sure to peruse Alba's wine list and choose from one of their many exceptional vinos. (303-938-8800)
Warm, inviting, and possessed of an elegant rusticity, Frasca has taken Boulder by storm. At the helm are chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, both formerly under the tutelage of Thomas Keller (of California's French Laundry). The result of this illustrious pairing is exquisite Italian cuisine modeled after the fare of Friuli, a northeastern region. Start your meal with a savory salumi plate (a variety of house-cured meats), followed by a first course of handmade russet potato gnocchi or grilled tuna in parmesan vinaigrette. Main courses include butter-roasted snapper and tagliatelle with veal sausage. On Mondays, diners delight in a three-course tasting menu for $35. (303-442-6966)
6 Nick n Willy's Pizza
The unique Italian pies at this pizza parlor come in a variety of scrumptious formulations. Among the options are ones that feature their olive oil glaze, fresh basil and oregano, and cheeses that range from mozzarella and fontina to Swiss and gorgonzola. Carnivores often enjoy Little Nell's Chicken BBQ, topped with tender poultry, red onion, and fresh cilantro. For a vegetarian option that's out of this world, try the Earth born: Fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, cheddar/provolone, marinated artichoke hearts, black olives, mushrooms, green and red peppers, red onions, roma tomatoes. Or, for something a bit more on the wild side, try the Wild Willy combo with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, cheddar/ provolone, Italian sausage, salami, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, seasoned beef, mushrooms, black olives, green and red peppers, red onions, roma tomatoes. (303-444-9898)
5 The Mediterranean
If you're in the mood for variety, this locally owned gem is the place for you. Not only does The Med serve up a taste of Italy, but you can also take a tour of Spanish, French, and Greek cuisine having never left Boulder. Known for, but not limited to, its fresh, wood oven pizzas and hot-out-of-the bakery bread which is made fresh daily, this eclectic restaurant offers more than just carbs. Be sure to try their Kabob made with your choice of lamb, chicken, or shrimp and flavored to perfection with garlic hummus, tabouleh, basmati rice, seared greens, grilled flat bread & tzatziki. Stop by at happy hour to peruse a to-die-for wine list. (303-444-5335)
4 Antica Roma
This sweet, stylish Pearl Street Mall trattoria is designed to resemble an old Roman piazza and features a large fountain in the center of the dining room. The award-winning menu includes specialty pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven, saltimbocca ala Romana, homemade lasagna, ravioli, and tortellini. We highly recommend the Gnocchi, featuring potato pasta, your choice of "quattro formaggi" with gorgonzola, fontina, ricotta, Parmesan, and sage or "alla sorrentina" in a pink tomato basil cream sauce with eggplant, topped with baked mozzarella. For dessert, your choices include traditional tiramisu, creme brulee, or the gelato of the day, which just happens to be made locally. (303-449-1787)
3 Pizzeria Locale
Located on enchanting Pearl Street, this pizzeria mixes traditional Italian elegance and charm with some American edge and swagger. Among their mouthwatering concoctions you'll find the Vesuvius, a lite tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad that will leave you refreshed, and more than ready for a glass of one of Pizzeria Locale's ostentatious wines. And, for the main course, may we suggest the Filetto pizza, complete with sweet cherry tomatoes, creamy burrata cheese, pungent garlic, fresh basil, and parmigiano reggiano ( we could call it plain, old, Parmesan, but that wouldn't quite describe Pizzeria Locale's take on this well-known cheese). Salute! (3034423003)
2 Arugula Ristorante
Arguala Ristorante will enchant you with its simple elegance, exquisite and authentic Italian dishes, as well as its charming Head Chef, Alec Schular, who often visits guests to inquire about and share in their dining experience. To begin your evening, the light and flavorful House Olives marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon and rosemary are guarenteed to appetize. For a decadent dish, indulge on the Pepper and Pancette Risotto or the Sausage & Goat Cheese Penne complete with Italian Sausage, pungent carmelized onions, roasted tomatoes, fresh oregano, and a healthy sprinkle of goat cheese. Be sure to pair one of Arugula's fine wines with your meal to complete your Italian experience. (3034435100)
Classic Italian cuisine, served in cozy, romantic surroundings with dark wood furnishings, white tablecloths, and soft lighting, makes Laudisio an ideal setting for special occasion dining. This award-winning restaurant features superb pasta, risotto, chicken and seafood dishes, and an extensive wine list and Italian liquors. Some favorites include the Chicken Parmesan and Filet Mignon Desserts include tiramisu, creme brulee, champagne zabaglione, cheese cake and creative glaces. For those who appreciate living locally, Laudisio offers in-season and locally grown produce in many of their dishes. For those with dietary concerns, they also offer Gluten-free lunch and dinner menus, as well as Gluten-free breakdsticks. (303-442-1300)
About Hope Gately
Hope Gately should have a bumper sticker proclaiming "Not a Native...But I Got Here as Fast as I Could!" A transplant from the Midwest, Hope has fallen in love with Colorado's mountains, lakes, and lush valleys. She plays in them as often as possible and, when she's not lacing up her hiking boots, she's slipping into some sexy heels for a night out at a local Boulder restaurant or brewery. Along with writing about Colorado in all its glory, Hope practices living locally, by attending farmer's markets, listening to live-local music, frequenting festivals, and recreating in her community!
Read more about Hope Gately here.