Power lunching on Pearl for $10

Clay Fong | Boulder Weekly

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” famously wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Perhaps a modern corollary to this pearl of wisdom is “A foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of short-lived restaurateurs.” We’ve all fallen in love with particular eateries, only to find that wildly varying levels of service and quality (or a long, steady slide) lead to the end of the culinary romance.

It had been a few years since I had ventured into Trattoria on Pearl for their $10 Power Lunch. I always found this offer provided excellent value for the money and decided to drop in with colleagues Shirly and Carin to see how it’s held up over time.

The contours of the deal have remained unchanged; this lunch special still consists of a beverage (including a glass of house wine, coffee or soft drink), minestrone soup or organic green salad, and a choice of pasta or sandwich.

Rather than sit in the inviting dining room, we decided to dine al fresco, all the better to engage in Pearl Street Mall people-watching. Our efficient servers began by presenting slices of dense bread, albeit not of the crusty rustic Italian variety, sided with a mix of decent olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grated Parmesan. While the baked goods here aren’t necessarily going to knock the socks off the bread aficionado, it does the job.

I noted that Shirly’s coffee came with a sweet biscuit on the side, a nice touch.

Both the salad and soup were simple, unfussy preparations. The salad lived up to its billing, featuring leafy greens combined with diced cucumber and red onion, sprinkled with a vibrant vinaigrette that let fresh flavors shine through. We were less excited by the minestrone, which carried plenty of veggies, including hearty kale as well as cannelini beans. What it needed was a stronger flavored stock or other flavorful punch to live up to the heft of the ingredients.

For her main course, Carin went for that East Coast fave, an eggplant parmigiana sandwich. The Trattoria’s take was a winner, with consistently sweet aubergine, full-bodied tomato sauce, and not too much breading. Toasted crusty bread provided the finishing touch on this sandwich.

My plate of tubular penne pasta with walnut pesto combined the traditional basil, olive oil and garlic-laden raw sauce with cream, evoking the classic Alfredo preparation. While the dish wasn’t as pungent as one featuring unadulterated pesto, some might welcome the tempering effects of dairy on sharp garlic. Regardless of one’s preferences, this was a satisfying selection for those desiring a heavier lunch.

Our unanimous favorite was Shirly’s plate of spaghetti carbonara, an Italian menu staple rarely seen in Boulder. Al dente noodles dotted with garlic arrived with a decadent egg-based sauce, making for an attractive golden appearance. Pancetta, bacon’s Italian cousin, contributed a measure of salt and smoke, making for a wonderfully well-rounded entree.

Trattoria’s special may not approach the offerings of more elevated Italian meals at establishments where the cost of the appetizer alone easily exceeds a ten spot. But for the money, the consistently welcoming atmosphere and comforting fare is unmatched. If you’re pressed for time during lunch, the prompt service here makes it easy for the diner to get out in under an hour without fear of hobgoblins.

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Trattoria on Pearl is located 1430 Pearl St., Boulder. Call 303-544-0008 or visit http://trattoriaonpearl.com/.