Cafe Paprika
Courtesy Cafe Paprika Facebook
Bastilla is a Moroccan party food, but there's no reason you can't use it to celebrate everyday life. Made up of several layers of delicate, crisp phyllo dough filled with saffron-spiced chicken, onions, crushed almonds and herbs held together with an egg batter, bastilla is pan-cooked into a round pie and topped with powdered sugar and an ornamental design drawn in ground cinnamon. You may need to recalibrate your tastebuds to fully appreciate the true depth of these last flavors, which bring so much more to this dish than they would your average slice of French toast. Listed as an appetizer on Cafe Paprika's menu but easily a meal in itself, this is a festive dish worthy of fanfare.
Le Central is the sort of place everybody pictures when they're daydreaming of a meal at the perfect French cafe. And Le Central doesn't just look that way; it tastes that way, too. In Robert Tournier's cozy bistro, the true heart of French cuisine is honored every night by a kitchen that knows exactly what it's doing. Escargot en brioche, soup à l'oignon, steak frites, sandwiches des lardons -- all the classics are here, at both lunch and dinner, and even though the menu changes every day, we've never had a bad meal inside these walls. From the house-baked breads and decadent desserts to the incredible mussels, everything tastes like it's coming directly to your table from a Parisian street cafe. Since the kitchen is cooking straight from an un-garnished version of the French culinary rulebook, don't expect to see a lot of lemongrass or frisee on the menu. There's no fusion here, no influence other than a thousand years of gastronomic research. Le Central serves pure French food done extraordinarily well.


Le Central
Le Central is the sort of place everybody pictures when they're daydreaming of a meal at the perfect French cafe. And Le Central doesn't just look that way; it tastes that way, too. In Robert Tournier's cozy bistro, the true heart of French cuisine is honored every night by a kitchen that knows exactly what it's doing. Escargot en brioche, soup à l'oignon, steak frites, sandwiches des lardons -- all the classics are here, at both lunch and dinner, and even though the menu changes every day, we've never had a bad meal inside these walls. From the house-baked breads and decadent desserts to the incredible mussels, everything tastes like it's coming directly to your table from a Parisian street cafe. Since the kitchen is cooking straight from an un-garnished version of the French culinary rulebook, don't expect to see a lot of lemongrass or frisee on the menu. There's no fusion here, no influence other than a thousand years of gastronomic research. Le Central serves pure French food done extraordinarily well.
Adega's chef, Bryan Moscatello, doesn't mess around. Caviar, rare wild mushrooms, Plugrá butter -- nothing but the best of everything goes into what ultimately comes out of his kitchen. Adega featured a $300-per-plate dinner on New Year's Eve, offers seasonal prix fixe truffle-tasting menus that run $170 a head before the wine, and is one of the very few houses in town that can keep $30 entrees on their menus and still put butts in the seats on a Tuesday night. How can Adega get away with this? Because Moscatello is that good, and his bright, French-infused, New American style is winning converts all over town. So mortgage the house, sell the car, use up Junior's college fund -- do whatever you must, but give Adega a try. It's worth every penny.


Adega's chef, Bryan Moscatello, doesn't mess around. Caviar, rare wild mushrooms, Plugrá butter -- nothing but the best of everything goes into what ultimately comes out of his kitchen. Adega featured a $300-per-plate dinner on New Year's Eve, offers seasonal prix fixe truffle-tasting menus that run $170 a head before the wine, and is one of the very few houses in town that can keep $30 entrees on their menus and still put butts in the seats on a Tuesday night. How can Adega get away with this? Because Moscatello is that good, and his bright, French-infused, New American style is winning converts all over town. So mortgage the house, sell the car, use up Junior's college fund -- do whatever you must, but give Adega a try. It's worth every penny.
There's just one problem with Venice: So many people came to love this place so fiercely and so soon after it opened that it outgrew its modest, twenty-table location just days after opening. Since Venice has no lobby or bar, would-be diners had to gather in the parking lot and wait for a table to open up. And if they had to wait an hour? That was just fine. Once people tasted the authentic, high-class Italian cuisine being put out by Alessandro Carollo (who trained at the Grand Hotel in Florence and the Italian Culinary School in Venice) and his kitchen, they'd set up tents if they had to, waiting all night like Star Wars fans for Venice to open its doors. Such rabid loyalty was inspired not by one dish, but by whole menu: pasta fruiti di mare, beautiful pale-pink carpaccio drizzled with olive oil and buried under a mountain of parmesan Reggiano, even just a simple plate of spaghetti in an honest, slow-cooked sauce. No matter what you tried, you were hooked. This spring, the best will get even better when Venice opens a second spot. Until then, show up early or pack a sleeping bag.


There's just one problem with Venice: So many people came to love this place so fiercely and so soon after it opened that it outgrew its modest, twenty-table location just days after opening. Since Venice has no lobby or bar, would-be diners had to gather in the parking lot and wait for a table to open up. And if they had to wait an hour? That was just fine. Once people tasted the authentic, high-class Italian cuisine being put out by Alessandro Carollo (who trained at the Grand Hotel in Florence and the Italian Culinary School in Venice) and his kitchen, they'd set up tents if they had to, waiting all night like Star Wars fans for Venice to open its doors. Such rabid loyalty was inspired not by one dish, but by whole menu: pasta fruiti di mare, beautiful pale-pink carpaccio drizzled with olive oil and buried under a mountain of parmesan Reggiano, even just a simple plate of spaghetti in an honest, slow-cooked sauce. No matter what you tried, you were hooked. This spring, the best will get even better when Venice opens a second spot. Until then, show up early or pack a sleeping bag.
Simone Parisi, a native of Florence, and his wife, Christine, a native of Boulder, always wanted to open an authentic pizzeria in Denver, and that's exactly what they did a few years ago. But Parisi, a charming neighborhood spot in northwest Denver, is much more than a pizzeria: It's also an Italian market and deli that cooks up great lunch specials. The offerings change daily and range from salmon salad to steak to numerous pasta dishes, all with a very authentic Italian accent.


Parisi Italian Market & Deli
Simone Parisi, a native of Florence, and his wife, Christine, a native of Boulder, always wanted to open an authentic pizzeria in Denver, and that's exactly what they did a few years ago. But Parisi, a charming neighborhood spot in northwest Denver, is much more than a pizzeria: It's also an Italian market and deli that cooks up great lunch specials. The offerings change daily and range from salmon salad to steak to numerous pasta dishes, all with a very authentic Italian accent.

Yes, there's a place for deli favorites named after Hollywood stars and sandwiches stacked so high you've got to unhinge your jaw like a python just to take a bite -- but this isn't that place. Salvaggio's depends on quality rather than gimmicks to keep people coming back, and its sandwich of red bells and mozz is a great example. For this sandwich, the kitchen takes slices of fresh milk mozzarella, layers them on a soft, chewy sandwich roll, adds strips of roasted red bell pepper -- and that's it. Ask the counterman to add a couple slices of tomato, some olive oil and a shake of salt and pepper, and you've got yourself one of the best sandwiches this side of Sardi's.


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