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Upscale Clean Eating: Arugula Ristorante in Boulder, CO

Veggie-centric, health at the forefront, and locally-sourced. The future of fine dining is eating clean.

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The highest end restaurants are catching on to what loyal clean eaters have already discovered: eating clean is not only best for your body, mind, and the environment. It’s most delicious, too.


Nestled in the foodie, health-conscious, and environmentally friendly haven of Boulder, CO, Arugula Ristorante embodies the spirit of the town, the state, and the clean eating movement. The restaurant unites the traditional flavors and artistry of Northern Italy with a fresh, local, and seasonal focus driven by Colorado’s plethora of produce and livestock. The result: innovative, health-focused dishes that cling just enough to their roots to feel familiar and comforting.

The key to elevating classic Italian food, it turns out, is to add more vegetables! The luscious, melt-in-your-mouth braised Texas wild boar melds into a robust tomato sauce mingled with homemade pappardelle that would be stunning on its own. But the addition of little cubes of marinated beets brings a welcome punch of brightness that balances the mellow, sweet and smokey sauce. The same can be said of the interplay between the caramelized, roasted brussels sprouts and fresh basil on the plate. Hot and cold, crispy and smooth, vegetables play a starring role in adding dynamism to each dish.

“We try to create a dynamic of color, freshness, and taste on each plate, and throughout each meal,” Executive Chef Sven Hedenas explains. This sentiment is a testament to the benefits of clean eating. It tastes better and is better for you.

Dessert serves as a welcome reminder that moderation makes for a happy body and mind. An ice cube-sized square of intensely dark, nearly molten flourless chocolate cake capped in almond whipped cream delivers just the right amount of rich and chocolatey, light and sweet satisfaction. And like all components of the meal, it comes with ample freshness in the form of a juicy blueberry compote and marinated orange.

A small square of flourless chocolate cake is elevated by the addition of fresh fruit and mint.

In addition to the flavors, Chef Proprietor Alec Schuler embraces Northern Italians’ respect for food and their ingredients, and it is clear on the plate.

“We’re not into following the trends, or into being cool all the time,” Chef Schuler says. But by not getting wrapped up in the newest fads, Arugula crystallizes the growing movement forwards local, fresh and healthy food.

The tomato soup— an Arugula staple— embodies the marriage of old Italian flavor and new, clean farm-freshness. The mellow sweetness and layers of smoky, earthy tomato evoke a giant pot of tomatoes stewing low and slow, watched with care for hours on end. Fresh fennel adds a delicate layer of licorice and a spring-like spark. Simple and satisfying, the soup, like the restaurant in general, demonstrates that good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Just let quality ingredients sing.

See alsoFrom Fish to Fork in the Outer Banks.

Arugula’s Vegan Tomato Fennel Bisque

about 3/4 of a gallon, or 12 x 8 oz. portions
Cook Time
30 min
30 min


  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium to large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp anise seed
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 5 14 oz. (70 oz. total) cans of tomatoes (unsalted), diced or crushed
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sucanat, organic evaporated cane juice or honey
  • 1 tbsp sea salt, maybe more to taste
  • Small pinch black pepper


  1. Sweat onion, fennel and spices in a few tablespoons of olive oil, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock and salt, simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Blend (preferably with an emersion blender) while emulsifying by slowing adding the remaining olive oil. Add sherry vinegar and sugar, and season to taste with more salt as desired.

Nutrition Information

  • Calories 0
  • Carbohydrate Content 0 g
  • Cholesterol Content 0 mg
  • Fat Content 0 g
  • Fiber Content 0 g
  • Protein Content 0 g
  • Saturated Fat Content 0 g
  • Sodium Content 0 mg
  • Sugar Content 0 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat Content 0 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat Content 0 g