Replacing Boulder's Pizzeria Da Lupo, Vero Boulder dishes out a similar selection of wood-fired pizzas and other courses echoing the offerings of its predecessor. But this establishment, which opened last spring, also retains an Italian-influenced identity of its own, boosted by an emphasis on simple yet mostly satisfying dishes.
While the bill of fare lacks the pastas featured at Vero's Denver location, the menu is refreshingly straightforward. Vero distinguishes itself with a substantial array of small plates, including charcuterie selections, steak tartare, and wood-fired chicken wings. Substantial salads and, entirely unsurprisingly, pizza (gluten-free crusts are available for an additional $5) rounds out the offerings.
The space lightly updates the Da Lupo interior, retaining much of the old space's bones. The ambience is a bit more sleek and modern, but not at the expense of a welcoming feel, enhanced by accommodating staff.
On a recent weekday evening, service was prompt, and unusually attentive. Our server made a point of monitoring our progress through our salads and small plates before giving the green light for our pizzas to be placed in the wood oven. It was a pleasant surprise to see such a keen eye for detail, and a refreshing counterpoint to those unfortunate occasions when everything arrives all at once.
My dining companion and I started things off with the $10 endivia salad, the perfect cooling course for a sweltering summer's eve. A mix of crisp endive and radicchio, set off by a perky accent of arugula, was matched by smooth pistachio and chunks of pungent gorgonzola. A lemon and olive oil vinaigrette was the perfect finishing touch, brightly flavorful but appropriately light given the distinct mix of flavors.
Another course that was a fine complement to balmy weather was the $15 burrata fatta in casa small plate. While the fresh cheese could have used a tad less salt, its luxuriously smooth consistency and overall creamy demeanor made it a winner. Crunchy crostini made for a terrific textural contrast. A pile of roasted red peppers, boosted by fresh basil, made for a welcome bright note that played off the richness of the cheese.
Less compelling was the $12 calamari fritti, which tended more towards the mildly sautéed than the fried. While the flavors of lemon and caper were acceptable, this dish didn't break any new ground in terms of taste or innovation. For the money, I would have expected more flair in the presentation, or for that matter, crunch.
There's a certain degree of subjectivity when it comes to pizza crusts. I find myself in the somewhat crisp camp, although I'm not immune to the charms of a well executed, more bread-like version with a bit more chew. For my money, that crust characterization is a fair description of Vero's take. On the other hand, my dining companion found his crust chewier than he preferred. Another point in Vero's favor was a decided lack of sogginess in the crust, which is a deal breaker in my somewhat short pizza book.
The $15 pizza al pesto was a meatless delight built upon a solid foundation of arugula pistachio sauce. While not as strongly flavored as a concentrated basil and garlic number, this lighter take on pesto was the ideal complement to the more subtle cheeses that topped this pie, namely grana and mozzarella. Not too heavy or too light, the colorful topping was an eye-catching mix of thin zucchini slices and ripe halves of cherry tomato added after baking. A just-right measure of garlic packed the punch I prefer in my pies, and I would certainly order this pizza again, particularly if I were in the market for something less meaty.
Nevertheless, carnivores won't be left wanting at Vero. My dining companion's $14 salsiccia e funghi, or sausage and crimini mushroom pie was a wining combination of tried and true ingredients. An expertly balanced San Marzano tomato sauce was fresh and bright, and formed a strong base with plenty of creamy mozzarella. Earthy mushroom was a spot-on foil for the house made sausage, distinguished by a lively hint of fennel flavor. While this pie was certainly enjoyable in the summer heat, this hearty pizza would likely be just the huckleberry in colder weather.
Vero goes a few steps beyond offering typical pizza, and the top shelf toppings, are remarkable for both quality and a winning simplicity. Service is informal, but the attention to detail and low-key friendliness make the experience seem closer to that of a much more expensive venue.