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When the team behind Frasca Food and Wine opened the original Pizzeria Locale in Boulder five years ago, many Boulder residents were just beginning to discover what, exactly, Neapolitan pizza even was. Fast forward to the present, and the artisan pizza craze has exploded both locally and nationally, trendy new pizzerias have cropped up in ‘hoods from Longmont to Littleton, and Pizzeria Locale has rolled out three Chipotle-backed fast-casual locations (with another in the works for Cincinnati, Ohio). Despite all that growth, the full-service flagship Boulder location of Pizzeria Locale has continued to flourish, its formula (simple pizzas, top-notch ingredients, and good wine) basically unchanged. In honor of PL Boulder’s fifth birthday, we sat down with chef di cucina Robert Andreozzi to talk about the past, present, and future of pizza.
5280: When Pizzeria Locale opened five years ago, authentic, artisan pizza was really just catching on. Have you guys noticed a change in your customers since then?
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RA: At the end of the day pizza will always be pizza, that’s just a reality. People will always come into the restaurant and ask, “why don’t you have a pepperoni pizza on the menu?” But with more publications doing better reporting, the consumer is much better informed at this point. We don’t have as many people coming in saying “what is Neapolitan pizza?” We’ve definitely seen a shift, and it’s been unbelievable.
Pizzeria Locale Denver recently added a Hawaiian pizza to the menu. Would PL Boulder ever do a pizza like that?
I would love to do a Hawaiian, but it’s not within our aesthetic. One of the things that’s most important to us is authenticity. It has to be. We want to have the best, most authentic Neapolitan pizza. It’s not just we want to have the best pizza. Every day we find something to fine tune and get better within our aesthetic. What we take from Italy is the commitment to simplicity. For Neapolitan-style, you want like three, four things on a pizza max. Even the pizzerias that are famous, the reason they’re famous is their classic pizzas, which are just simple, simple, simple ingredients.
We’ve added a whole lot of stuff to our menu, but I think we’ll always have the classics. We still have Diablo, we still have Mais. The menu was extremely well thought out, and we respect that everyday.
How has the explosion of gluten-free or allergy-conscious diners affected the pizzeria?
Being in Boulder or in Colorado in general, and just cooking in this day and age, you have to have a more well-rounded menu. For us that means more salads, more contorni. We do a gluten-free pizza. We’ve been fine tuning it. I’ve gotten to the point where I can almost eat it. Our gluten-free guests have been really excited. It’s a hard product to make, but we’re committed to making everyone happy.
What’s new and exciting at PL Boulder?
For the past four-and-a-half years, we’ve rocked the same stuff. That’s great and wonderful, but there are too many great farms and purveyors in this state to just do that. We’re committed to working a bit more seasonally with our menu, but with winter coming around, that does mean less vegetables. Personally, the one I’m most excited about is our new clam pizza. I’m from Rhode Island, where there’s a strong Portuguese and Italian influence, and that’s who I am, it’s something I sometimes get emotional about. We put raw clams on the pizza and allow the heat of the oven to slowly pop the clams, and then the juices build the base of the pizza.
What do you think the future of the pizza trend or movement is locally?
I don’t know where the trends will go. My preference is that people will become more authentic in their own approach. Like Blue Pan [Pizza] for instance. Blue Pan is so different. But they own what they do, and I love that. Pizza can just be pizza, but if you go into the research you can do Sicilian style, Florentine style, anything. I hope we trend toward more authenticity. Doesn’t matter what style it is. Raising our game is important.
How is PL Boulder celebrating five years in business?
In addition to the specials we’re doing, we’re going to have Jordan Wallace [Pizzeria Locale’s culinary director] to do a guest pizzaiolo night on Thursday the 28th, we’re going to have him work the oven, which I know he’s so amped up about. He left three years ago, and this is a restaurant that he started. He’s going to come back and work the oven and Chris Donato [Pizzeria Locale’s general manager] is going to work the floor. We look at the first night of reservations on OpenTable, and it’s the same people who keep coming to the pizzeria. So I think to have our regulars come and interact with Jordan and Chris, who they haven’t seen in three years, is going to be so exciting. We’re thrilled to celebrate with our guests.
Bonus: Stop by Pizzeria Locale Boulder from Monday, January 25 through Sunday, January 31 and enjoy the Marinara pizza, appetizers like arancini, and a spritz cocktail for just $5 each.