I don’t want to oversell this, but you might want to hold onto something. Ready? It’s possible to get innovative, delicious cuisine in an elegant environment without the check getting into what my parents would call “special occasion” territory. In Boulder.
I know, I know. You’re dubious. But I swear it’s true. I can prove it.
Exhibit A (I haven’t found Exhibit B yet) is Radda, “ideally” located next to a certain local market in that part of the world known to some tragic individuals as NoBo. An off-shoot of the more tony Pearl Street eatery Mateo, Radda is a buzzy neighborhood Italian spot, featuring a menu chock full of classic dishes priced to move and executed with panache. It even packs the same punch as the high-end Lauddiso.
Whether one chooses a seat on Radda’s expansive patio facing the Flatirons, a cushy booth, a seat at the well-appointed bar, or a table more or less in the lap of kitchen staff, one can look forward to a comfortable night out. Service mixes the casual with the fine, as a young cadre of service staff pair white shirts of their choice with (often rolled-up) jeans while (mostly) paying attention to the details of the profession. Radda’s staff responds well to their patrons’ needs, whether one is after a quick bite or a lazy excursion through the menu.
I would recommend the latter. With nothing more than $16 (let me say that again, nothing more than $16), diners can enjoy a course or two before entrées and still stay within budget. We paced our experience with a well-balanced Balarin Valpolicella (one of many reasonably priced bottle selections at $36), a lovely accompaniment to our first course of cheeses ($3 per selection). A Grana Parmesan and Gorgonzola were delicious and amply portioned. Our second course was comprised of Asparagi alla Griglia (Grilled Asparagus, $4) and perhaps The Greatest Panzanella I’ve Ever Had ($5). The latter, a divine example of the staple “bread salad.” It was a bountiful collection of nutty, pungent arugula, bright currants, pinenuts, red wine vinaigrette and the most perfectly crispy bits of toasty grilled bread. The flavors and textures were a symphony in simplicity and truly the highlight of our meal.
Not that the entrées were any kind of let down. A Tagliata di Manzo (a sliced Colorado beef tenderloin, $16) was a delight, served with that lovely, lovely arugula and some pecorino picante (a sheep’s milk cheese with just a little bite to it). Although I missed at first the balsamic vinegar reduction that often accompanies this dish, in the end the taste was more subtle without it, and the flavor of the beef became more central to my overall impression. The Spaghetti Pomodoro ($11) was similarly structured: At first the sauce of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil came off as too mild, but after the first few bites the sweetness of the basil (so often overcome by the acidity of the tomato sauce) came through and made the dish the gustatory manifestation of summer that it was meant to be.
Throughout our stay, our server Ashley was attentive while maintaining the distance and pace we had suggested by our strategy of ordering a course at a time. When it came time for dessert, we took her up on her suggestion of Lemon Cake with Rosemary ($5), which was a successful sweet and savory fusion that nonetheless did not overwhelm. But the fact that we were dining fine in Boulder without having to call Amex for a credit line increase almost was a little too much to take.
1265 Alpine Ave., Boulder
Bottom line: Overpriced perennial “Best of Boulder” stalwart Laudisio finally has some serious competition.