You don’t need a Wayback Machine to know that the ancient Roman forebears of today’s Italian cookbook writers embraced the bedrock principle of cooking seasonal ingredients of top quality. These scribes advised that spices and other superfluous adornment were to be used sparingly, lest one detract from the inherent goodness of fresh produce, meat and seafood. Drop the ancient Sicilian poet Archestratus — his epic “The Life of Luxury” celebrates Mediterranean cuisine — into the Boulder Farmers’ Market, and he’d feel vindicated amid the displays of local, organic produce.
Old Archie would also warmly embrace the Boulder Organic Pizzeria, a downtown establishment devoted to featuring organic and local ingredients, simply presented. This space also offers gluten-free and vegan options at no additional cost. Menu items include salads and appetizers and, of course, pizza, available whole and by the slice.
Friend John and I first grasped this pizzeria’s attention to detail when my iced tea arrived. It came with a shot glass loaded with opaque liquid, and John likely relished the potential spectacle of me going blotto over lunch. After making a discreet inquiry with our attentive and thoroughly excellent server, Marietta, I discovered the glass contained not alcohol, but simple syrup. This thoughtful touch eliminated the pesky problem of solid sugar precipitating out in the cold liquid. Eureka! Somebody was paying attention in high school physical science class.
Next up was a refreshing $8 salad of real crab atop a bed of baby arugula. More than enough for two, this selection would have benefited from a touch less salt.
However, the light-yet-tangy dressing of olive oil and lemon made this a truly satisfying summertime course. We later learned that the chef ’s influences are Southern Italian, making him less likely to draw upon overdone balsamic vinegar for his dressings.
An $8 half order of the mozzarella sampler consisted of a terrific assortment of Italian cheese and meats. Accompanied by puffy flatbread, this platter included ricotta, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, organic cured prosciutto, prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) and Finocchiona, fennel-scented salami. The cheeses were especially remarkable, with the mozzarella exuding a sensually soft richness, while the Parmigiano possessed a pleasant sweetness. The finocchiona was the star of the meats, with pungent licorice tones playing off the bits of fat and meat.
Our main course was the $14 prosciutto-and-mushroom pizza, which could likely feed three. Unfortunately our order was misunderstood, and we received a mushroom pizza without prosciutto. The error was somewhat rectified by the addition of prosciutto cotto, but we both would have preferred its cured counterpart. On the edges, the thin crust was delightfully crisp, but got a tad soggy toward the center. Nevertheless, the pizza was one we’d order again, especially since the fine Hazel Dell mushrooms lent intriguing textural variety and pleasingly complex taste.
We ended with a $6 freighter-sized portion of Tiramisu, decadently creamy and shot through with chunks of chocolate. This dessert spoke to the strengths of this establishment, mainly its ability to take selections that are very nearly the stuff of clichés and make them new again through expert preparation and drawing upon the finest ingredients available locally and abroad. This cooking philosophy makes for some tasty choices, and despite a few quibbles, this pizzeria is a worthy heir to an ancient tradition of letting first-rate ingredients speak for themselves.
Clay’s Obscurity Corner
Hammin’ it up
Musing about prosciutto, musician friend John and I reminisced about our favorite restaurant chain in Spain, the Museo del Jamón, or Museum of Ham. This shrine to cured pig offers up multiple Spanish versions of prosciutto, including the famed Serrano, which translates to mountain ham. On a visit to Madrid, I quickly made this my stop for a morning meal. I would order paper-thin slices of cut-to-order ham on a crusty roll, adorned with nothing more than sweet butter and a glass of fresh orange juice. Here I had my first taste of premium Iberico, produced from acorn-fed pigs.
Boulder Organic Pizzeria
1175 Walnut St., Boulder 303-999-3833