Bobby Stuckey, one of Frasca Food and Wine’s founding partners and a master sommelier, largely credits his career in Boulder to his wife Danette’s family, the Albericos. So much so, Stuckey is changing the name of his Boulder branch of Pizzeria Locale to Pizzeria Alberico, which will open in February 2023.
The pizzeria at 1730 Pearl Street (next door to Frasca) was inspired by the traditional recipes of Naples, Italy, three hours from where the Albericos lived in San Vittorino, before they moved to Colorado. The restaurant sells appetizers, salads and pizza Napoletana, named for the city where pizza has its roots. It was conceived as a casual counterpart to Frasca’s fine Italian dining, and that’s not changing.
The new name and interior design though will further separate the restaurant from Denver’s fast-casual Pizzeria Locale chain, which Stuckey helped open in 2013, and Chipotle Mexican Grill operates.
“For a myriad of reasons, I owe so much to that family,” Stuckey said about the Albericos. “Dick Alberico is the reason we’re here in the first place,” he added, referring to his 82-year-old father-in-law.
Inspired by Italy
In 2000, Stuckey was working at the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley when Danette’s mother passed away. The couple wanted to be close to her father in Golden, Colorado.
Stuckey and his French Laundry colleague Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson had been discussing opening a restaurant together. Agreeing they could never recreate the luxury, grand destination restaurant nestled in California wine country, the business partners imagined a neighborhood restaurant — inspired by their travels throughout Italy, the country’s food and wine, and the locals’ hospitality. They named it after the leafy branches, or frascas, in northeast Italy.
In 2004, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson opened Frasca in Boulder, and Alberico handpainted the restaurant’s awning.
Under what became the Frasca Hospitality Group, the business partners sought to open an Italian-inspired, but more laidback, pizzeria. When the building adjacent to Frasca became available in 2009, they jumped at it.
They sent Chef Jordan Wallace, a sous chef at Frasca who would become Pizzeria Locale’s culinary director, to Naples for a few months to learn how to make traditional Napoletana pizza – dough crafted with the perfect ratio of flour, yeast, water and salt, then topped with tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, and cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven for no more than two minutes. Pizzeria Locale opened in 2011, and quickly became a hit.
Boulder and Denver’s Pizzeria Locales: ‘Apples and oranges’
Chipotle Mexican Grill’s founder Steve Ells, who went to Boulder High and is a CU graduate, frequented Frasca, Stuckey said. He also loved Pizzeria Locale.
Ells thought there was a way to make Pizzeria Locale fast casual, rather than a full-service dining experience, by borrowing from some of Chipotle’s business model, according to Stuckey. Together, they created a version of Pizzeria Locale in Denver. In a joint venture with Chipotle (and separate from the Frasca Hospitality Group and the original Pizzeria Locale), Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson opened Denver’s first Pizzeria Locale in 2013.
Today, there are five Pizzeria Locales in Denver. Each offers four-ingredient dough placed in custom ovens that cook pizzas in minutes.
“They’re apples and oranges,” Stuckey said of the Boulder Pizzeria Locale compared to its Denver locations. “Other than that they have pizza and the same name.” Or used to.
Pizzeria Alberico’s menu will include most of Pizzeria Locale’s options, plus some additions. The space will remain 3,000 square feet and the inside will be redecorated with Naples in mind.
Stuckey said he and the Frasca Hospitality Group were planning on remodeling the space this year to fix up general wear and tear and reevaluate its interior. Designed in 2009, to open in 2011, the decor reflected that period’s trends with black-and-white tiles lining the floors and walls.
“When you think about restaurant design,” Stuckey said, “I think it’s really dangerous if you look at the moment that you’re in and try to duplicate what’s hot.” Pizzeria Alberico’s new interior will include more timeless Mediterranean blue and earth tones, representing Naples’ buildings and surrounding water.
“Doing a completely different look after 12 years is totally normal, if you’re lucky enough to have a restaurant that long,” Stuckey said.
He even asked Alberico to paint the awning of his namesake’s pizzeria.
Stuckey said to him, “We need you to come out of retirement for one more sign.” And so he will.