By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
I eat a lot, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It's my job, after all, but sometimes even I am amazed at my rapacious capacity for putting on the feedbag.
Like a couple of weeks ago, when I was down south with Laura eating pancakes — just a light breakfast of a short stack, fresh fruit, a couple of eggs, some bacon, four or five cups of coffee. We'd taken our time, reading both morning papers, making the waitress come back again and again to top my go-juice, and mocking the junior road company of The O.C.seated behind us with their popped collars and retro Sixteen Candlessweater vests.
By the time we'd finished, I was ready for a nice nap, maybe, or possibly some gastric bypass surgery. Not being the sort of fellow who goes to the gym (ever), runs unless being chased or deliberately lifts anything heavier than absolutely necessary, my primary method for speeding digestion and burning calories is to walk. Were this Ireland rather than Denver, I'd be the dandy fellow in the cable knits and stout shoes strolling pleasantly down a spring lane. Were this Paris, I'd be a boulevardier of the old school — wandering les arrondissements in spats and a cape, swinging my walking stick at street urchins and secretly wondering how long it would be before I was crippled by gout.
2500 e. orchard
Littleton, CO 80121
Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs
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Carpaccio di bue: $9
Carpaccio di spada: $10
Squash ravioli: $14
Black-and-white ravioli: $15
Rabbit loin: $26
Pollo ruspante: $18
But this being Denver, I most often find myself walking through strip malls. And though not quite as romantic or fashionable as strolling the Rue de Rivoli after supper at Le Meurice, odds are good that my walks between breakfast and lunch or lunch and second lunch or second lunch and early dinner will take me past someplace where I can briefly fortify myself before continuing on. Often, I don't have to walk more than a few steps before finding a doughnut shop, taco stand or sushi bar worth spending an hour in. And this, I think, is a dignified and wholly decent way for a grown man to get his exercise — much better spiritually and emotionally (if not necessarily physically) than pulling on leg warmers and aerobicizing or getting all sweaty on one of those machines that has you climb imaginary stairs. The only stairs I'm interested in are real ones that have a nice bar or maybe some barbecue at the top.
Anyway, after Laura and I had finished our breakfast, we set out on a walk and, within a few dozen paces, came across San Lorenzo Ristorante, which was just opening its doors for lunch. It looked pretty — shaded windows, bright lemony-yellow walls and crisp white cloths on all the tables. It also had a stack of menus laid out just so on a small table in the foyer, the perfect come-on for a big, hungry boy — as attractive as a red light to a lonely pervert or a lighted cross to those in need of absolution.
"Wait a minute," I said to Laura. "Let me just grab one of these and then we can go."
I grabbed one, but we didn't go anywhere. Instead, we stood together on the sidewalk, each holding an edge of the single page, reading and — despite the fact that our breakfast was just a few hundred feet gone — lapsing into a sudden starveling silence.
Carpaccio di bue dressed in lemon and oil, whole peppers stuffed with cheese and prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella with fresh tomatoes and roasted peppers draped with marinated Italian anchovies, grilled salmon with roasted potatoes, garretto d'agnello — spring lamb braised in red wine, served with grilled eggplant and potato purée. Laura touched a finger to the listing of ravioli di zucca e noci (handmade green ravioli filled with butternut squash and served in a sage cream sauce) while I focused on the bianchi e neri just below — black-and-white ravioli filled with shrimp in a simple lemon and marjoram beurre blanc.
Later, I would speak with Craig D'Alessandro, who owns San Lorenzo with his wife, Consuela, and he would tell me that he sees this happen all the time — people frozen in place by his menu, by the simple arrangement of words on a page. "In the dining room," he would say, "sometimes people will just sit there for ten minutes, reading."
This was among the best, most beautifully evocative menus I've ever seen — like haiku, with each of the simple descriptions carrying more weight of feeling and longing than a few syllables should reasonably allow. But unlike poetry, unlike haiku, D'Alessandro's menus are transitive, evanescent, changing not by season or whim, but by dictum — every week, come what may. There are constants (the Bolognese lasagna and spaghetti di mare, the Isabelle salad with baby greens, radishes and fennel) as well as dishes that cycle on and off the board like themes, returning and then going away again. But D'Alessandro forces himself to consider the menu and change it once a week to keep the kitchen sharp, to keep himself and his guys from getting lazy.
"I used to do specials," he'd explain. "But they always got put off until the last minute, and I'd have to just throw something together. And that's not, you know...that's not special."