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Thursday, June 2,2011

Getting lucky in Louisville

By Clay Fong

Intriguing goings-on are afoot in downtown Louisville as summer draws near. Making my way to meet friend Kuvy for a weekend lunch, I picked my way across a criterium bike race like a real-life Frogger. My destination was the modern, minimalistic environs of Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse. It’s an aesthetically clean space, with pristine white walls and a welcoming, open warehouse-style ambience.

The menu here is deceptively simple, consisting of a variety of starters, sandwiches, salads, and brick oven pizza. But make no mistake, the food here is squarely in the artisan pizzeria camp rather than that of the humble neighborhood pizza joint. They also have 21 beers on tap, a third of them Colorado craft brews.

Sophisticated starters include winter squash puree and tapenade, as well as salumi and cheeses ranging from New England Grafton cheddar to Italian gorgonzola. Although you’ll find archetypical Italian grinder sandwiches here, there’s also roasted veggie selections adorned with smoked mozzarella. Likewise, straightforward pepperoni pizza stands alongside a more contemporary meatless pie heaped with roasted red pepper, mozzarella, feta and olives.

Our first starter was a bowl of $7 lamb-based meatballs, slathered with bright San Marzano tomato sauce. The meatballs possessed a coarse, rustic texture, with a balanced flavor that was neither bland nor gamey. A pleasing dusting of vibrant pepper was apparent, although a dollop of cooling ricotta tempered the heat. After we polished off the lamb, Kuvy insisted on keeping the bowl so we could dip the pizza crust into the lip-smacking sauce.

Next was a simple dish of $4 house-cured olives garnished with orange and lemon wedges. These olives varied in color and size, with the only common denominator being a pleasant, not-too-briny taste that emphasized the fruity qualities of these morsels. We then split an $8 beet and arugula salad. Kuvy noted that the spicy qualities of the arugula helped draw out the sweetness of the other ingredients, which included delectable candied pecans and perfectly roasted beets. Generous chunks of First Snow goat cheese added a hint of tangy cream, which complemented the pleasantly subtle white truffle vinaigrette.

The $13 wild mushroom pizza clocks in at 14 inches in diameter, enough to share. Granted, my crisp crust bias prevented me from fully embracing it, but I found it otherwise exemplary. The crust is of medium thickness and tended toward the soft and bready. It’s not objectionable, but at the same time, it doesn’t break any new ground. But the toppings are first rate, especially the mix of Hazel Dell fungi.

“This is a mouthgasm,” Kuvy exclaimed after taking her first bite. The mushrooms’ incredibly earthy richness was enhanced by a liberal sprinkling of arugula, added after baking, which contributed a peppy contrast. The main ingredients’ rich flavor approached that of Duxelles, the famed French mushroom reduction. Sweet Cippollini onion, mozzarella and a splash of truffle oil rounded out the flavor without overshadowing the mushrooms’ heartiness.

Lucky Pie brings fresh flavors and attentive preparation to Louisville’s Main Street scene. The large patio and voluminous selection of beer on tap make an ideal hide away for relaxed, summer evenings. It’s an attractive alternative to more hectic Boulder venues, and Lucky Pie’s namesake selections are very much in the same league as any other artisan pizza.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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