WineInk: Frasca pops up at Element 47 |

WineInk: Frasca pops up at Element 47

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspenite Bobby Stuckey, master sommelier and co-founder of Boulder’s famed Frasca Food and Wine, brings the team from his James Beard Foundation award winning restaurant for a special, one-of-a-kind, pop-Up dinner at Element 47.
The Little Nell/Courtesy photo

Few things are better than a reunion of old friends. Especially when they bring the foods and wines of Italy with them.

Such will be the case next Thursday night, March 9, at Element 47 in The Little Nell hotel, when former Aspenite Bobby Stuckey — master sommelier and co-founder of Boulder’s famed Frasca Food and Wine — brings the team from his James Beard Foundation, award-winning restaurant for a special, one-of-a-kind, pop-up dinner. The dinner will offer a five-course menu featuring the cuisine of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region for which Frasca is known, paired with wines hand-selected by Stuckey from the wine region, which he calls “one of the most diverse on Earth.”

“We were so happy when the Nell reached out to us with this opportunity, and we are really excited to be there,” Stuckey said about the collaboration that will see a mashup of culinary all-stars from Frasca and Element 47 — arguably the two most lauded destination restaurants in all the Rocky Mountains.

Element 47
Courtesy The Little Nell

Joining him in his journey to Aspen will be Frasca’s front-of-the-house staff, along with members of the kitchen team under Culinary Director Eduardo Valle Lobos.

“So many of the Frasca staff have heard about the time I spent at the Nell, and now they will get a chance to actually experience what a great restaurant it is,” Stuckey said. “In fact, I look forward to bussing a couple of tables,” he joked, though it is something he inevitably will do as it is a career–long habit for which he is well-known.

The visitors from Boulder will be welcomed by The Little Nell’s own culinary director, Matt Zubrod, Executive Chef Oscar Carrasco, along with Wine Director Chris Dunaway’s crackerjack wine staff. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy not just the exceptional wines and food from a renowned region, but also the excellence of polished hospitality professionals.  

Many in the Aspen wine community know Stuckey well from his days as a legendary wine director at the Nell from 1995 to 2000 (Has it been that long?) before he left for the Napa Valley’s French Laundry. Others have attended his always standing-room-only wine seminars at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, which he has been a part of for over 25 years. And then there are those who regularly make the pilgrimage to the Front Range to dine and sip at the Frasca Hospitality Group’s collection of restaurants, including Frasca, the newly re-christened Pizzeria Alberico in Boulder, and Tavernetta and Sunday Vinyl in Denver.  

Frasca Food and Wine was opened in 2004 as a passion project by Stuckey and his partner, Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. The pair met while working under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and shared an affinity for the art of fine dining, as well as the culinary and wine traditions of the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which is tucked neatly into the northeastern part of the country between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea.

James Beard award-winning restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, will pop-up in Aspen for one night only, at Element 47 on March 9.
The Little Nell/Courtesy photo

It was a risk to focus the venture exclusively on such an obscure region.

“It may have been obscure for everyone else, but we knew the region,” said Stuckey with his characteristic enthusiasm. “The winemakers are family and friends, and we were so inspired by the locals to share the diverse wines and the rustic but elegant cuisine.”

With creativity, determination, and an eager and focused staff, they turned their little Friulian restaurant on Pearl Street in Boulder into one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. Not only were they honored with a plethora of awards (Food & Wine Best New Chef for Mackinnon-Patterson in 2005 and the 2013 James Beard for Outstanding Wine Service In America), but they have become a destination for diners from all over the world for nearly 20 years now.

So inspired were the pair that they wrote the book on Friuli. Literally. Each person who attends the dinner will receive a copy of a beautiful cookbook authored by Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson (along with writer Meredith Erickson) titled “Friuli Food and Wine: Frasca Cooking from Northern Italy’s Mountains, Vineyards, and Seaside.” The book serves as great introduction to the region. “It’s really our love letter to Friuli,” Stuckey said.

He promises to pour wines that are classic examples from the region with the five-course meal. If you have not had wines from Friuli before, this could be a revelation. Friuli is perhaps best known for its crisp, fresh, white wines, and Stuckey will be pouring two from Ronco Del Gnemiz. He will also offer up the Vodopivic Vitovska Origine 2018 (a white wine that has a hint of orange due to extended contact with the skin of the grapes) and pair a Schioppettino (a spicy red grape that is indigenous to Friuli from a producer called Petrussa) with a lamb chop with radicchio and black truffle polenta. If know these wines, you are likely a regular at Frasca.  

Wine offerings at Frasca.
The Little Nell/Courtesy photo

“We love having Bobby and Frasca here for this pop-up,” said May Selby of The Little Nell. “We had a fun concept for the Food & Wine Classic in 2020 with Pizzeria Locale, but it fell apart when the Classic was canceled. Grant Barrette, our director of food and beverage, and Bobby got to talking about Frasca a few months ago, and the pop-up was born.”

By the way, just this past weekend, Boulder Pizzeria Locale on Pearl Street, next to Frasca Food and Wine, re-opened with a refreshed and revived design. Now under a new moniker Pizzeria Alberico, the maiden name of Stuckey’s wife Danette’s family, the restaurant remains true to their inspiration and is still serving authentic thin crust Napolese pizzas from the wood-burning imported oven that has been painted “azure,” the blue tone of the Napoli United football club.

Stuckey and Danette look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at the Frasca Pop-Up dinner and also to the opportunity to come, once again, to The Little Nell.

“I remember the first time I ever stayed in a room at the Nell,” Stuckey laughed as he reminisced. “I got named as a Manager of the Year in the hotel, and the prize was a night at the Nell. I was so excited, right? My wife and I were finally going to stay at the acclaimed Nell. It just so happened that my night coincided with my inventory night, so I spent the evening doing inventory of the cellar. Pretty romantic, right?”

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see him on an early morning run while he’s in Aspen. “I may be tapering from my training,” he said.  “I’m running the LA Marathon on the 19th.”

That’s so Bobby.

If you go…

What: Frasca Pop-Up Dinner
Where: Element 47 at The Little Nell hotel
When: Thursday, March 9
Cost: $300 per person, plus tax and gratuities


Scarpetta Pinot Grigio 2021 DOC Friuli

Another endeavor undertaken by Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson is the creation of a wine company to produce wines from the Italian regions they are so passionate about. Called Scarpetta, a reference to the small piece of bread one uses to soak up the last of the sauce in a bowl, they make accessible, food-friendly wines that are for everyday drinking. “These wines are about hospitality,” explains Stuckey, “and everyone can understand Pinot Grigio.” Sourced from two different sites in the Friuli region and aged six months in stainless steel tanks, the refreshing wines are perfect for an aperitif or with fish fresh from the sea. A taste of the Adriatic at its freshest.   

Courtesy photo

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