Last night I went to Pizzeria Basta (a name I find incredibly difficult to remember) in Boulder, Colorado. I read about it on the web and had a hunch it would be right up my alley; Chef Kelly Whitaker trained in Italy for four years and makes almost everything in house with the exception of a few cured meats that he sources from places like California and New Jersey. One of these house made products, chicken pate, I actually enjoyed when It came out on the cutting board charcuterie plate. It's a pretty big deal considering I usually can't stand any sort of liver...even foie gras most days.
I called ahead and warned the server I was coming solo with a camera, making sure there would be room at the bar and the chef didn't mind me photographing his work. Justin, the server who answered, had a genuine tone telling me he'd ask the chef and that they'd keep me company at the bar.
I drove the 25 minutes to Boulder and ventured in for an early solo dinner at 5:45. A tall, strappingly handsome late-twenty something "Justin" opened the door inviting me in and guessing I was "Vanessa from the phone"-maybe my big camera gave me away. The industrial vibe to the small restaurant caught me off guard at first but I quickly warmed up to the atmosphere as I began meeting the all male, extremely good looking and sincere staff.
Justin asked the bartender from New York, Jordan, to give me a glass of Prosecco on the house to start my meal off right. As I got comfortable in my bar seat and sipped the bubbly Justin looked at me and asked, "so I hear you're ordering lots of dishes and taking pictures?" "Sure, I guess you could say that," I responded, feeling the pressure flood over me as I sensed their expectations of my experience there. They saw me as a serious food critic, someone who would put the word out that they do great work. So I took the challenge and decided I would act as a food critic would and ordered all courses with no remorse about calories or cost...it was empowering and terrifying all at the same time.
Everything hit the mark on the delicious scale and I was continually impressed with the attention to detail and on-top-of-it service.
Chef Whitaker explained details of the charcuterie plate and hit the mark on the rest of the dishes to follow; a crisp salad of romaine, capers, oven dried tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette, a Margherita style pizza with house-made sausage followed by an absolutely to-die-for Lavender Panna Cotta with honey.
Chad, another server who I found out later rooms with Justin and shares with him the home state of Oklahoma, insisted I drink a complimentary glass of "boxed" Riesling with my salad and then suggested a great Sangiovese to sip alongside my pizza. Both were fabulous. He later confessed to never knowing if he should reveal to customers that such a great wine comes in a box; I personally loved knowing.
My experience was "royal" because the staff truly treated me like a princess from the warm greeting at the door to the ending gracious conversation I had with Chef Whitaker thanking me for coming and telling me to come back whenever I'm in town.
You better believe I'll be back!
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