Ask the Critic: A great Italian restaurant is not just a matter of taste

Last week, we posted a list of Denver's ten best Italian restaurants -- in our (meaning my) not so humble opinion.

This was followed almost immediately by a ruckus in the comments section over who, exactly, got to decide what "best" meant (again, me) and what qualified, say, Cafe Jordano to be on the same list as Frasca.

The quote/unquote qualifications were precisely this: places I wanted to eat at during the time that I was writing the list. Places I remembered fondly enough that the mere thought of eating Italian brought back memories of the salt-crusted peaches at Il Posto, a seafood fra diavolo at Venice or the daily agnolotti special at Frasca.

It truly was as simple as that.

And while some of you out there seemed to think I had lost my fucking mind because of the juxtaposition I displayed -- between fine dining Italian and the more modest joys of a nice plate of spaghetti -- I think that the rancor hinted at something deeper in the Denver psyche. Thus, our question this week:

In the past few years, this city has gone from being a place where a boy of particular tastes could get essentially no Italian food to a place where that same boy might choose between the cuisine of Rome, Napoli, the Mediterranean coast or Friuli on any night of the week. It has become a place awash in red sauce and pork products, a city where pitched battles are fought over who has the most authentic Neapolitan pizza and the best source for salami.

So in this new environment, I ask you, which do you want more of? The simple, street-corner joints of old or the Italian temples of haute cuisine that now seem to be opening monthly? When you think Italian, are you dreaming of spaghetti or risotto? Of antipasti or salumi? Place your answers, arguments and digressions below.

Grazie.

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