By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
And then I found Tomand Dave Panzarellaand their Old Fashioned Italian Deli(see review, page 52), and sank myself to the belly in their vision of old-time Buffalo and the days when the Italian Heritage festival would run for a dozen blocks down Hertel Avenue and spill over into the alleys and neighborhoods on either side. The Old Fashioned may not have the pastas that Bonanno does, but it has just the right kind of pastas for a neighborhood joint.
Swimclub32 (3628 West 32nd Avenue) is also going Italian, with owner, wine-pusher and part-time white jacket Chris Golub and chef de cuisine Chris Doughertyreplacing the menu that had been a tapas mix of modern Japanese and Spanish influences, courtesy of former chef Joel Holland. And while Swimclub will continue with the small-plate format, those plates will now be filled with foods coming out of Veneto, Alto Adige and Tuscany.
What's more, the kitchen (all 300 square feet of it) is going through a makeover, with all of its old-fashioned fire and iron being replaced by ultra-modern induction ranges and a sous videsetup that will allow the tiny galley to play around with some big flavors. Upstairs, the crew has turned the rooftop into an herb garden with cedar planting boxes crammed among the vents and HVAC equipment. Meanwhile, downstairs in his office, Golub is still struggling to get all the product and produce together ahead of the new menu's launch.
3760 Tejon St.
Denver, CO 80211
Region: Northwest Denver
"I'm still nailing down a couple more farmers," he told me last week. "Just a couple more suppliers. You know these guys: They say they can get me a delivery every week, then every other week, then they're asking me, 'Hey, do you think you can come and pick it up yourself?' I don't know. I still need tomatoes. I'm trying to find some really bitchin' tomatoes." Right now he's getting heirlooms from some guy on Clarkson Street who tore up his whole front yard to plant a tomato garden, but that won't be enough for what Golub has in mind. He wants "Jersey tomatoes," like he used to get back East. "I called all my guys back in Jersey," he said. "But none of them will ship this far."
When I asked Golub if this wasn't a pretty radical departure for a spot that had made its name with stone-cooked Kobe beef and sashimi, he explained that when he and partner Grant Gingerich came up with the idea for their own restaurant, they initially weren't going to have a chef at all. They wanted it to be like their own kitchen, the kind of place where they could serve whatever they were in the mood to serve to anyone who was in the mood to eat it. But when he met Holland, whose ideas about food matched so well with Golub's ideas for the restaurant's wine and sake lists, he set the chefless kitchen notion aside (at least temporarily). Unfortunately, the arrangement lasted only as long as Holland did (which is to say just a few months), and for the past several months, Golub has been plotting this change.
"We want to be able to change on a whim," Golub explained. "Not according to the month, not according to the season, but according to what we want to be doing. You know, it's like when you have someone over to your house to eat, and sometimes you want to cook Italian, and sometimes you want to, like, steam a halibut with some lemongrass or something. That's what I want to be able to do. Our regulars are really excited about this. They've been waiting for it. So pretty soon, I guess I'll be putting the white coat back on and going into the kitchen."
Yeah, just as soon as someone comes through with those bitchin' tomatoes.
Up in Boulder, the Trattoria Girasole space at 1430 Pearl Street has become Trattoria on Pearl, with owners Sara and Guillermo Casarrubias and a chef who brings some heavy credentials to the party. Daniel Cofrades has worked at Adega (he helped chef Moscatello open) and with Kevin Taylor (he held a chef's post at Taylor's namesake joint), but he's also done time at Michel Rostang (a Michelin three-star in Paris), as well as in Spain,Venezuela, Brazil and Indonesia. His menu is classic Italian, with cracker-crust pizzas and a late-night tapas lineup, but what really caught my eye was the limoncello sorbet topped with homemade, lemon-infused vodka. Alcoholic ice creams (and sorbets) definitely rank as one of mankind's greatest inventions.
More good news: It looks like a chain may finally get it right. Piatti, at 190 St. Paul Street (and the rest of the Piatti locations nationwide), has given itself a physical and philosophical makeover and become Piatti Locali -- a seasonal, market-driven, serious restaurant dedicated to community, locality and connecting with its neighbors through food. In the past, I never found much sense in burning up an evening in Cherry Creek eating bruscetta and zuppa del giornoat Piatti when I could have the same stuff done sometimes better and sometimes worse at a real local restaurant -- not just some place that was pretending to be.