No. 61: The Butternut Squash Ravioli at DiFranco's 955 Lincoln Street, Suite D 720-253-1244
When DiFranco's opened in the Beauvallon Building, we held out hope that the little Italian deli would make it on a block that for a time was one of Denver's biggest restaurant black holes. But after a little over two years, DiFranco's is still turning out some of the best Italian in town, serving customers on the go as well as the few diners who stick around in the tiny eatery, which only seats 27. The menu is small too, featuring a seasonally changing list of hand-made pastas (which you can see being made from the view of the open kitchen), sandwiches and salads. This season, the fall flavors of the butternut squash ravioli is what has captured our attention.
See also: 100 Favorite Dishes of 2014
The ravioli themselves are tender pillows of orange-hued puree tucked between thin layers of pasta, rolled and cooked to just the right toothsome texture. The sauce is a creamy butter-based blend of citrus and sage that clings to the pasta and adds herbal depth without drowning out the nutty flavor of the squash.
Shreds of soft and succulent braised beef shoulder add heartiness and a drizzle of olive oil lends rustic appeal with light fruitiness. Crumbled amaretti cookies -- a traditional Italian topping for pumpkin and squash ravioli -- give a touch of sweetness and almond flavor. The whole dish is cozy and wholly appropriate for colder weather. The sage, almond, butter and squash combine to form a burst of nostalgia-inducing holiday cheer. It's the perfect dish to remind us that even in these cold and dark months, the rich pleasure of winter food is one of the simple things that gets us through until bright flavors of spring appear.
In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.
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