If you've been paying attention to the local culinary scene, you've heard the buzz about Dave Brackett, the retired Air Force pilot who's brought authentic Neapolitan pizza to Colorado Springs' west side. You've heard about his Pizzeria Rustica's deceptively simple menu - Antipasti di Giorno, a few salads, a handful of pecan-wood-fired pizzas and an ever-changing selection of beguiling gelato and sorbetto creations.
If you've been to this lovely little pizzeria, you may have ordered the Antipasti di Giorno ($6 for a half-order), giving in to your curiosity about fire-roasted and marinated tomatoes and peppers, cured Italian meats and aged cheeses mingled with olives and giant capers. If you did, you were probably impressed by the judicious balance of flavors and textures, and, if you were paying attention, the fine quality of each tidbit on the plate. Maybe you enjoyed the perfect marriage of buttery, house-made fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in the Insalata Caprese ($8). Not a filling appetizer, but a good thing, because the main attraction - the 14-inch pizza - was yet to come, and you had your eye on dessert.
Maybe you went for simplicity and ordered the classic Margherita ($12) with its balance of tangy San Marzano tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and a sprinkling of aromatic basil leaves. If you ordered extra basil ($1), you may have noticed it didn't buy you anything, but by now the cool evening air on the patio and the soft, yet toothy, pizza crust had you lulled into slow-food bliss.
Perhaps you chose the alchemy of the Quattro Formaggi pizza ($12): mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and fontina melting with roasted garlic, olive oil and fresh parsley. Or maybe you ordered the signature pizza Rustica ($13). If you did, you measured your delight among three perfect elements: a classic tomato-and-mozzarella base, a festive topping of paper-thin, pink ribbons of melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto mounded with peppery, fresh arugula, and the "ricotta surprise," a pocket of creamy, warm ricotta wrapped into a section of your pizza's handmade crust.
If you made it through all this without noticing the attention to detail that Brackett and his staff have put into your food - the imported Italian flour and tomatoes, the house-made mozzarella and a focus on local ingredients when possible - pay close attention to dessert.
You've eaten spumoni before and wondered how layers of chocolate, cherry and pistachio ice cream ever came to be so popular, but you figure Rustica just may have the chops to enlighten you. You order it, but the owner comes to your table to apologize - there was a run on spumoni over the weekend, and he's out. He instead offers chocolate gelato with a dollop of ricotta, a drizzle of fig balsamic reduction and almond cookie crumbles ($5). Well, OK, you tell him, if you must. And you've made the right decision.
Your companion's tiramisu (crafted nearby at Garden of the Gods Gourmet, $6) is almost as seductive, with its silky mascarpone and heady, brandy-laced coffee notes. On a later visit, you order spumoni again and this time receive some divine pistachio gelato served in a chocolate waffle cup and dressed with dried cherries.
You and your companion share your desserts, because her icy Limoncello sorbetto ($5) with blood-orange balsamic reduction and strawberries is too, well, cold and lemony, to pass up on a hot August afternoon.
Now are you paying attention?