Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana

by Grace Boyle on October 21, 2016

If you need to remember anything at all about Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana, it’s this:

Authenticity is so key to their pizza, they brought in someone from New York to ensure their water had the same lower concentration levels of calcium and magnesium, to mimic the “soft” water of NYC (and subsequently, the city’s notorious bagels and pizza).

As Smithsonian Magazine has said, New York City tap water is sort of the “Goldilocks” of water when it comes to dough-making.

When I heard that, I knew Racca’s was the real deal.

Furthermore, Racca’s is the only VPN certified (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) restaurant in Colorado. There are just 88 in the United States.

Racca's Cooking

As an Italian, who has also been to Naples, I know about this stringent process first hand. This association gives very special designation to pizzerias who meet these strict requirements that respect the tradition and art of Neapolitan pizza that includes verifying ingredients they use like the Italian-imported Antico Molino Caputo 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and cheese that is produced in Italy. Anyone certified must also adhere to specifically enforced processes and wood-fired oven techniques.


All of Racca’s ovens are imported from Italy, as well and they boast two side by side; one at 1000° and the other at 800° which is how the cook everything on the menu (no stove top). I love how in the pizza oven, their pizza cooks in under two minutes.

Racca's Interior

What’s In a Name?

You may have heard of Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza in Denver that opened on Larimer Street in 2008. Fast forward to late 2015, this is still the same restaurant, just a shift in name. Husband-wife owners, Mark and Kristy Dym heard the confusion from patrons about Marco’s Pizza (Ohio pizza chain) adding a lot of restaurants in Denver and decided to change their name.

The name Racca’s is a short version of Kristy Dym’s maiden name, Latorraca.

Having won many awards including 2015 Independent Pizzeria of the Year from Pizza Today, and receiving votes for Denver’s best pizzeria by Westword and 5280 Magazine, they’ve had their share of success in a world filled with pizza despite having to shift the brand and name. Their aim for freshness and authentic, has always stayed the same.

They have locations in downtown Denver on Larimer, in Englewood, Lakewood at the Colorado Mills Mall, and just opened an outpost in Casper, Wyoming. I’ve visited the Larimer ballpark location and most recently, got to visit their newer location at Colorado Mills. I love that it’s right across from the movie theater – great for dinner and a movie.

Appetizers at Racca's

EMILIA ROMAGNA EMILIA ROMAGNA | Smoked Bufala Mozzarella, Walnut & Pine Nut Cream, Roasted Zucchini, Pecorino Romano, Fresh Basil, CALABRIA CALABRIA | Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, Spicy Salami, Hot Dry Cured Coppa, Fresh Basil, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, EVOO PIEMONTE PIEMONTE | Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Sardo Truffle Spread, Mushrooms, Prosciutto di Parma, Fresh Basil, EVOO

They also offer a classic Italian dessert offering from cannoli to panna cotta to tiramisu.

Dessert at Racca's

There’s one more thing worth mentioning that the pictures don’t properly show. Although I am not gluten free, upon encouragement from the staff, we tried a sample of their cooked, gluten free dough and I almost couldn’t tell the difference. It was fluffy and not thin and crispy like a cracker (how a lot of GF dough tastes to me). I think this offer is important especially in health-conscious Colorado and was a nice touch.

I appreciate their consistency and committed to authentic, especially all these years later. We loved the staff at the Colorado Mills location – filled with natural excitement and passion for the food. That’s how it should be. It’s the Italian way, after all.
Locations: Denver – Larimer, Denver – Englewood, Lakewood – Colorado Mills, Casper, WY
Editors Note: Thank you to Colorado Mills for hosting us so we could learn more about the many eateries in the mall. Colorado Mills and Denver West Village, an adjacent Simon-owned open-air center, have a combined 33 eateries with choices ranging from fast casual to sit-down dining.


Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is a longtime (Boulder) staple for me. Nestled on the west end of Pearl Street, they’ve been open since 1994 (Boulder is their original location) and they just continue to nail it every time with fresh seafood and a fun, vibrant environment. It’s no wonder they also have successful locations in Ft. Collins, Denver – LoDo, Denver – Glendale, and Kansas City.

Jax Menu

Jax Tables

Jax Wall Art

Whether I’m cozied up to the bar downing their raspberry lemonade vodkas alongside best calamari I’ve ever had for a summer happy hour, or bringing my parents for a lengthy meal of king crab legs and fresh oysters when they’re in town – I’ve just never had a bad meal there.


For the month of October they’re celebrating National Seafood Month (as they should). They’ll be showcasing fresh catches from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch “Best Choices” list. Each week throughout the month they are featuring a different catch, sharing recipes, and encouraging a dialogue about the importance of sustainable fishing practices for the longevity of the oceans (something that’s always been important to Jax). The weeks entail: Verlasso Salmon, Shrimp, Rock Cod, and finally Sablefish.

I got to sample the salmon week. Look at these exquisite dishes.

Amuse Bouche

Crispy Skin Salmon

Crispy skin salmon with fingerling potatoes, broccolini, whole grain mustard, cheese crisp, and bourbon blackberries 

Sake Cured Salmon

Sake cured salmon with salted cucumber, pickled mustard seeds, dill cream, ikura roe, and tamari 

Head on over to help them celebrate this month at all Jax locations. If you choose a dish that has one of the specials that week, you get $5 off.

Outside Jax


Learn More: Big Red F Restaurant Group | Jax Fish House


The Casa Del Matador is a Tex-Mex mini chain that’s a sister concept to Matador. Casa Del Matador opened in Ft. Collins in February of 2016, whereas the original Matador opened in Seattle in 2004. There are three Casa Del Matadors, and there are eight Matadors now spanning from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado (one in Denver).

Starting in Seattle, in 2004 by Nathan Opper and Zak Melang the two are invested in the restaurant’s growth and both add their own unique background to the operation.

Opper started in construction at a young age, and his background lets him guide with the architectural design and unique construction of each Matador restaurant. Malang visits Mexico twice a year, and spends a particular amount of time “researching” the tequila market to ensure the restaurants’ collection of more than 100 tequilas stays up-to-date and diverse. He also designs all the beautiful tables and bar tops, by hand in each restaurant.

I’m going to focus on two things that stood out to me at Matador Ft. Collins: the artistic interior design and the lengthy tequila menu.

DESIGN: Like other Matador restaurants (I’ve been to the one in Redmond, Washington) the interior is stunning. Although in a mall location which isn’t always my favorite, the Ft. Collins location interior doesn’t dissapoint.

The custom metalwork around the restaurant was designed and forged by local Seattle artists. Co-founder Melang, hand-designs, cuts, and created the golden inlay bar and table tops. Local artists hand-paint the bull skulls dotting the walls alongside floor to ceiling golden mirrors. I also was stunned to learned there are 232 candles in the Ft. Collins location. That yes, they light by hand each night to make the place sparkle.

Matador Bull Skulls and Mirror

The chandelier when you enter the restaurant is stunning and enormous (below). It was made in hand in Mexico, and delivered just to this location.

matador chandelier

Inside Matador

TEQUILA: Their tequila menu in Ft. Collins is five pages in length!

From blanco to reposado, they have 128 carefully curated tequilas to go with their dishes. When there’s something as lengthy as their tequila menu, you know that this is something they take seriously and I couldn’t help but highlight. I suggest you try one of their offered tequila flights, if you’re in the mood to broaden your tastebuds and enjoy.

Matador Booze

Matador Bar

Offering made-from-scratch Mexican cuisine some of my favorite dishes were their small bites which are great with a group, alongside my watermelon margarita.

Matador Mexican Food

I recommend you order their grilled, stuffed jalapeno’s with goat cheese, hickory smoked bacon and ranch dressing (top left).

Given the location, Matador is family-friendly and a good spot for a bite to eat before the movies or in between shopping. They have happy hour daily – 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. They turn to 21+ after 10 p.m. They also offer a different brunch menu on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Find them: 341 E Foothills Pkwy #110 Fort Collins, CO 80525 | matadorrestaurants.com/fort-collins


My Italian grandmother, Josephine Vallelonga, and her mother, my great-grandmother Emmaculata Vallelonga, didn’t know any other way than to raise their own animals, grow their own vegetable garden, and cook everything from scratch. It was seeped from traditions from the “old country” but really it was just that era’s way of creating. They didn’t have far reaching resources, so eating local and sustainably was natural and just the way it was. As we grew into the 1960’s and 1970’s, the factor of convenience, overseas war(s), and processed and canned food, eventually turned into TV dinners that came out of a box.

Enter 2016, and the movement for local, sustainable, makers, and farm-to-table are becoming far more pervasive. Like many cyclical trends, we have come full circle. The connection to people and our food is increasingly more important to consumers, yet unwinding from our recent history of microwavable food that isn’t local, takes time and education is needed more than ever.

Enter Hatch Lab out of Boulder, Colorado.

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Created by Mara Rose (below), her business aims to create educational content and resources that are carefully curated and enjoyable to consume. As Mara puts it, “you can think of Hatch Lab as an online farmers market meets your grandma’s kitchen.”

Mara Rose of Hatch Labs

When I asked Mara why she created Hatch Lab she said she was inspired by the opportunity at hand – realizing that our lives have become too outsourced and people were removed from the making process and “knowledge of traditional skill has been lost. Many of us are disconnected from where products come from and who makes them,” she shares.

Hatch is an homage to people that are interested in “creating, tinkering, and experimenting, and supporting small artisanal companies that care about quality, the health of humans, and the health of the planet.” 

Their classes teach the consumer how to make things that are simple, but useful. They focus on finding inspiring and talented artisans and farmers to be part of their network, and then you get the chance to “work” and learn from them online. Think of videos and thoughtful blog posts such as making kimchi at home, or how to start seeds in your own home, or 5 tips for the budding kombucha brewer. The classes are just $5 and include detailed FAQ’s, agenda, equipment detail, and thorough context through the video that provides true guidance for getting started in creating.


Their mission is two-fold explains Mara. First, she plans to engage artisans and experts who teach the Hatch audience, encouraging “hatchers”. Secondly, they support “emerging artisan companies by telling their stories, sharing their wisdom, and making their high-quality, useful products available to our audience.”

Although the main focus is educational courses and reading online (so it can reach anyone) Mara also hosts a small selection of in-person events where she can connect the artisan, expert, or farmer to the consumer in an intimate setting. She plans to do a small handful of these across the country, supplementing her Hatch Lab concept.


I attended her Makers and Mongers event last week, and next week she’s hosting another in Boulder: *Forage and Ferment (tickets still available, purchase them here)

A beautiful half day excursion took us to Mountain Flower Urban Goat Dairy where we learned about the farm’s and goats, we milked them by hand, then we moved to making cheese from their milk (ricotta and stretched our own mozzarella) courtesy of Farm Director and Chef, Michael Montgomery.

At noon, we enjoyed a lunch by Cured under the swaying trees and sun on the beautiful Autumn afternoon. Then, we capped off the day with Jessica Beer, Cured’s GM and incredible lead cheesemonger as she led everyone through a cheese tasting and class.

By getting your hands dirty (literally), you’re able to be closer to what you create, support local artisans and farmers, and learn. And learn we did.

Take a look at a bit of our journey over the course of our excursion.

Mountain Flower Goat Farm Boulder Hatch Lab

Ricotta Making

Michael Cheese Making Hatch Lab

Stretching Fresh Mozzarella

Cured Lunch

Jessica Beer of Cured, Makers and Mongers Hatch Lab

I applaud Mara for her breadth and bringing together these amazing people, resources, and community. I couldn’t recommend Hatch Lab more if you’re looking to learn and create, especially within your own home (keep it local).

Jessica Beer Teaching Class

Check out her next in-person event/class below and stay tuned in for more by signing up for her newsletter here.

*Forage and Ferment Event: 

Here’s the scoop:

  • $160 per person
  • Farm tour and harvest at 63rd Street Farm
  • Meet-the-farmer and harvest at Cure Organic Farm
  • 3-hours of hands-on learning with Kirsten Shockey
  • 3 jars of your fermented creations to take home
  • Fermentation-inspired artisanal lunch crafted by Cured
  • A surprise fermentation-inspired gift
  • Snacks and drinks throughout the day
  • Limited to 10 participants
  • Dietary restrictions can be accommodated

What’s Next?:

When asking Mara what she plans for 2017, she excitedly shares that they will be launching a carefully curated online marketplace, to add to their already existing online community and resources.


“In back of the bread is the farmer, and in back of the farmer is the mill, and in back of the mill is the wind and the rain and the farmer’s will.”



Denver Central Market

by Grace Boyle on October 4, 2016

On September 25th, the highly anticipated food hall, Denver Central Market opened their doors at 2669 Larimer Street in the rapidly developing RiNo neighborhood.

Denver Central Market

Upon entering the space, I am immediately transported to Europe’s open air markets filled with purveyors slinging charcuterie, cheese, fish, fresh baked bread, coffee, and specialty food items. There’s an undeniable sense of community and buzzing excitement. Maybe it’s because there’s a little something for everyone and there’s such a commitment to high-end, local food, but I can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy whenever I’m there.

Denver Central Marketing Vendors

The 14,000-square-foot food emporium houses 11 local vendors. Founders, developer Ken Wolf and chef-restauranteur Jeff Osaka (of Sushi Rama and Osaka Ramen) chose the historic H.H. Tammen Building for this food hall. The building is beautiful – it’s filled with vibrant, natural light and there’s enough space to roam between purveyors.

Denver Central Marketing Building

Here’s a rundown of the Colorado local vendors holding down the fort in the market:

  • Crema Bodega: From Crema Coffee House this extenstion and iteration of a coffee house not only includes their radical espresso and coffee, but like a true bodega, they’re selling the likes of eggs, milk, and more.
  • Culture Meat & Cheese: From Justin Brunson of Old Major and Masterpiece Kitchen, they offer house-prepared charcuterie and cheese boards alongside high-end ingredients if you want to build your own. Don’t forget their meat cone (served in a paper cone), filled with shaved, sliced meat for you to munch on while you shop.
  • Curio: The bar sits as the focal point against the entrance wall, where open market seating is available. Curio serves everything from cocktails, to beer, to wine. I personally love that you can grab your drink, and mill about the space drinking it.
  • Green Seed: What first looks like a produce shop with bins of bright red tomatoes, fresh greens, and fruit, they also serve as a restaurant that serves you delicious dishes and/or fresh juices, made by said produce. This really showcases that those in the neighborhood could come into this grocery environment, and it’s not just a place to eat.
  • High Point Creamery: From husband and wife team, Chad Stutz and Erika Thomas, this is their second artisanal, ice cream shop. They serve ice-cream, sorbet, ice cream cakes (calls Bombes), and sundaes.
  • Izzio Artisan Bakery: From what was previously, Udi’s (iconic family and brand in itself), this bakery is named after partner and head baker, Maurizio (“Izzio”) Negrini, a third-generation baker from Bologna, Italy. It doesn’t get more real than this. They’re nestled in the corner, of the market and through the glass you can look at their fresh baked pastries like chocolate croissants and caramel pecan rolls, and long fermented breads. The smells of yeast and baking bread waft through the market, and you can see all the machines and baking at work in their corner.
  • Silva’s Fish Market: Silva’s is a full-service fish market that sells whole seafood such as tuna, clams, lobster and more. They also offer scale and filet services. In addition to your seafood shopping, you can indulge in their ceviches or oysters alongside a glass of vino, right within the market. Owner, Jesus Silva spent eight years at Sushi Sasa and Jeff Osaka, is co-owner.
  • SK Provisions: From Denver chef and restauranteur, Sean Kelly boasts two antique rotisserie ovens that are slow roasting the likes of poultry, pork, and beef. I love their prepared salads, soups, and sides which are great for those working and/or on the go. The provisions make for great picnic makings, as well.
  • Temper Chocolates and Confections: A chocolatier is key to a food hall such as this. They carry gourmet chocolates from American chocolatiers. While they also blend their own housemade, hand-crafted chocolates and sweets.
  • The Local Butcher: A full services butcher shop that carries beef, pork, poultry, lamb, bison, and house-made sausage. They also plan to serve two sandwiches daily such as the Italian meatball and pulled beef with rotating soup options. They deeply care about whole animal butchery and you can expect to find educated butchers, behind the counter. The majority of their meat is from Colorado.
  • Vero Italian: From Denver’s well-loved, Il Posto, Andrea Frizzi takes a spin on Neapolitan food by serving pasta and wood-fired pizza. One weekday I was there, Frizzi was behind the counter tossing dough and calling out orders as he is keeping it real with this more laid-back version of his Italian food (see photo below, on the left, he’s right up front). He also has a small pantry section where you could purchase the likes of olive oil, spices, and flour.

Central Market Vendors Silvas

If you live in the RiNo neighborhood, then you’re in for a real treat for urban grocery shopping and specialty goods.

Market Seating

Even if you don’t live nearby, I think it’s a great place for a lunch meeting or co-working (I see lots of laptops when I’m there), and even a great spot for a date. Note that parking is a bit spotty in the area as you’ll mostly be looking for street parking in the growing-in-popularity neighborhood, but it’s well worth it.

Find Them: denvercentralmarket.com | 2669 Larimer Street Denver, CO

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Under the Sun, Mountain Sun’s Entree-Driven Dining

by Grace Boyle on September 27, 2016

The original Mountain Sun (in downtown Boulder) opened their doors in 1993. That’s 23 consistent years of serving beers and delicious pub food in what I believe to be, one of the most iconic Colorado breweries and restaurants.

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Over the years they’ve expanded their restaurant list to: Southern Sun Pub & Brewery, Vine Street Pub in Denver, Longs Peak Pub in Longmont, and their latest concept, Under the the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria in South Boulder.

Under the Sun Interior

Slightly different than the rest of their concepts, Under the Sun is their “entree-driven dining destination,” that focuses on what they call “hearth and home”. With a fireplace in their main living room and their wood-burning oven, they bake bread, smoke meats, char food, and roast vegetables from scratch. Furthermore, with Nick Swanson, their French Culinary Institute-trained chef at the helm, the food is even more elevated since his joining in June 2015.

When Swanson first joined the menu offered a little bit of everything and was “all over the place,” he shared. In May of 2016 he launched a new, more seasonal offering of dishes that included revamping their weekend-only brunch offering. He plans to do major menu overhauls in the Winter and Spring, with seasonal tweaks throughout the summer and into the fall.

Some of their elevated dishes include the likes of his braised short ribs (braised for hours) served with fingerling potatoes, kale, shallots, and a mustard seed vinaigrette or the Scottish grilled salmon served with asparagus, snow peas, spinach, salsa verde and lemon.

under the sun food in Boulder

By the way, top right hand-corner is their wood-oven fired oatmeal chocolate chip cookie served with local Sweet Cow vanilla ice cream and their Stout beer drizzled with caramel!

Given they have a pizza oven as a beautiful part of their open kitchen, they also do wood-fired pizza and you I recommend you try their eggplant parmesan pizza topped with sundried tomatoes, grilled eggplant, mozzarella, Grana Padano cheese, toasted panko and fresh basil.

My favorite dish though? Their fried chicken. Only available on Wednesday’s, they prepare 24 hours before, brining the birds in buttermilk and a conglomeration of secret spices. Everything from legs, thighs, and breasts are twice dredged and then cooked to order. For $11.99 per plate, you get three perfectly crispy, fried pieces of chicken. Make a Wednesday date, really.

Fried Chicken Under the Sun

We can’t forget the beer. Under the Sun features 21 taps of crafted Mountain Sun Ale and 8-10 rotating guest beers. The guest beers vary on a seasonal basis. They also have sustainable wines on tap.

Under the Sun is open daily for dinner from 4pm – midnight and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 2pm. Happy hour is offered every day from 4– 6pm and again from 9pm – close. Please note: like the rest of their locations, they’re cash only.

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