Nowadays, many big-city, high-end residential developers strive to install an on-premises destination restaurant as an inducement for buyers. Case in point is San Francisco’s Millennium Tower, a pricey residential high-rise that features the RN74 eatery, operated by Michelin-starred Chef Michael Mina. Boulder has its own take on this phenomenon, in the form of Pizzeria Basta, a gourmet pie spot, hidden in the Peloton residences off Arapahoe.
It’s one of those modern places with a lot of hard edges that do little to muffle customer conversations and noise. But it’s still a pleasant enough eatery, with friendly servers and wood-fired pizza. On top of that, Chef Kelly Whitaker’s culinary background includes stints in Italy and American Michelin-starred kitchens. Despite this formidable pedigree, the menu features an unintimidating selection of starters focusing on cheese and charcuterie, as well as pasta, salads and pizza. The $10 lunch special represents excellent value, offering soup or salad with an entree of pizza, calzone or sandwich.
Colleague David began his lunch-special experience with a simple green salad of tender romaine hearts lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. This bowl of fresh greens proved that a simple-but-correct combination of ingredients is a thing of beauty. The right ratio of citrus to oil masterfully
rounded out the taste. Desiring something more substantial, I enjoyed a warming bowl of red pepper soup. Sweet with piquant notes, this was a satisfying soup greatly enhanced by the addition of that old can’tmiss ingredient, cream.
David’s entrée was the calzone of the day, which spotlighted goat cheese, salami and tomato sauce, hold the olives. The crust was a rustic and handmade affair, hot from the oven with a nicely realized texture splitting the difference between bready and cracker-like qualities.
The high-quality pork added depth and complexity that played off the tomato’s brightness, with the cheese smoothing everything out.
My main course was Daisy pizza, which shared a makeup similar to the classic pizza Margherita. This pie came slathered with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil and grano padano, a cousin of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. However, eating this pizza was akin to going on a date with an attractive person dosed out on cold medicine.
Like a desirable partner, the pie looked good, but something was missing. I couldn’t indict the ingredient quality or skillfully prepared crust, but the pizza still felt incomplete regarding depth or spicing. More fresh basil would have helped; adding crushed red pepper did, in fact, improve the flavor profile. I suspect I’d have a better pie by specifying my own topping next time, which might include Point Reyes blue cheese and red pepper.
Finishing this substantial meal, David’s $2 house-made spearmint ice cream was truly impressive. It had a pure flavor not found in other mint-laden frozen confections, and the spearmint provided an herbal depth lacking in the usual peppermint presentation. Meanwhile, I destroyed the exquisite $6 Lavender panna cotta with tuile cookies and honey. The gossamer-crisp tuile possessed a hint of this purple herb, while the custard itself showcased the floral qualities of the lavender, which came alive with a drizzling of bees’ nectar.
All in all, these desserts were satisfying finishes at a restaurant that works equally well for a business lunch, casual date, or low-key-yet-still-elegant evening out.
Clay’s Obscurity Corner Lovely lavender
Lavender is a multipurpose herb, with ceremonial, culinary and folk medicine applications. Commonly associated with the Mediterranean, it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for aromatherapy purposes, including playing a role as a scenting agent in baths. It is sometimes an ingredient in the spice blend known as Herbs de Provence, and shows up in sweets, including hard candies, ice cream and chocolates. As an herbal remedy, it’s been claimed as a curative for acne, insomnia and headaches. Lavender is even a tourist attraction for visitors to the South of France wishing to view the brilliant purple fields.
Pizzeria Basta 3601 Arapahoe Ave Boulder, CO 80303-1397 303-997-8775