By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
The calamari fritti, though, was straight from Genoa: gently coated pieces of squid that were light on grease and strong on flavor. Served with a faintly spicy, slightly chunky marinara for dipping, an order was more than enough to satisfy three or four as a starter. (Another of the servers' responsibilities is doling out portions of the dishes being shared.) The insalata Cesare boasted the slightly bitter element of endive and radicchio added to the romaine, along with olives for extra saltiness and Gorgonzola-topped crostini for more texture and salt; the dressing was a well-balanced blend of garlic, anchovies, oil and vinegar. The crema d'aglio e cipolle was an even more impressive balancing act: The soup counted roasted garlic and onions as its main components, and they'd been puréed and enriched with cream until the toasty garlic taste was muted but still very much a presence. Swirled around the soup's center was an herb-packed oil that added a bright, fresh flavor to the mix.
In keeping with the true spirit of Italian cooking, Chef Ganz likes to add fresh elements to his dishes, and the ravioli burro e salvia, the scaloppine piccata and the abbachio al forno all benefited from the extra flavor imparted by top-notch produce. Nearly caramelized oven-roasted tomatoes and asparagus injected some sweetness and a faint acidity into the ravioli dish; they served to neutralize the richness of the cheese-stuffed pasta drenched in a stunning, sage-infused brown butter. A smattering of diced romas helped soak up a caper-studded, lemon-kissed butter sauce that was delicious on the fork-tender, well-pounded veal piccata and even better on the angel-hair pasta, cooked an impeccable al dente. And the abbachio, a rack of Colorado lamb that arrived a flawless rare, came sided with fresh arugula that had been drizzled with truffle oil -- too lightly, I'd say -- as well as a rosemary-flecked ragout of white beans and romas that offset the meat's intensity.
The only dud in an otherwise fine meal was the fettuccine carbonara, which was simply too dry. The flavor came close to that of the classic recipe, and I thought the sheep's-milk Pecorino was a bold move on Ganz's part, because it's one of the saltiest grating cheeses. But while he somehow kept the dish from becoming a salt lick, he didn't have the right proportions of egg, cheese and pancetta to prevent the thick pasta from soaking up all the liquid and leaving behind gummy, bacon-salty cheese. Had the sauce been more moist, though, this dish would have been a star.
1550 Court Place
Denver, CO 80202-5107
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Downtown Denver
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30-11 p.m. Friday
5:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday
5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Bravo! isn't the first spot in town you'd think of dropping by for pizza, but the kitchen was in complete harmony there, too, and sommelier Maxence Ariza even stopped by to see if we needed help picking out the perfect bottle of wine for our two pies. Although Ariza's knowledge was impressive, making a decision seemed beyond us, and we settled on beer instead. It turned out to be a wise choice, because we wouldn't have wanted anything to distract from the jazzy pizza alla pancetta, its crispy, crackly crust topped by caramelized onions, goat cheese, portabellos and pancetta. The result was a charming combination of sweet, rich, earthy and salty -- like a big, fancy hors d'oeuvre on a homemade Ritz cracker. The kitchen did well with our simpler pizza, too; the marinara's semi-chunkiness worked well with the thin crust, and its mild spiciness played off the fresh mozzarella.
Encore! At Bravo!, the singer-servers deserve a standing ovation. And the restaurant should get a round of applause, too.