Anthony's Pizza & Pasta
Summer Powell
Ironic, isn't it? Not only does Anthony's put out the best white pizza in town, but it also has the best red sauce in a field crowded with contenders. A mild, slightly sweet sauce, neither too thick nor too watery and with good depth of flavor, Anthony's red is put to use not just on its pies, but also on a short roster of serviceable pastas and a solid board of pizzeria-style heroes and parm sandwiches. To west-of-the-Mississippi palates tuned into the heat of capsicum in all its chile incarnations, this sauce may seem too weak, too blah. But for those of us who remember that tomatoes are a fruit whose best essence is translated by long, slow cooking and an easy hand with the spices, Anthony's red is the tops.
Forget your jumped-up truffled mashers, your milk-and-cookie menus, your comfort food in all its gummy incarnations. That fad is played out, and good riddance. What's replaced it is a focus on those uncomplicated culinary pleasures that -- when done well and treated with respect, rather than tongue-in-cheek smart-assitude -- can bring more actual comfort than a hundred gallons of gussied-up beans and weenies. The best among them? The grilled cheese sandwich. At Chedd's, owners Dirk and Wendy Bruley have made this modest sandwich an object of gustatory worship. Grilled cheese is all they do at Chedd's, in about 17 billion combinations. On the chalkboard behind the counter, they've listed twelve kinds of bread, over thirty kinds of cheese, eight meats, a dozen varieties of vegetables and spreads, and assorted condiments, which you can mix and match for the grilled cheese sandwich of your dreams.
Vincenza's Italian Bakery & Deli
The panini at Vincenza's, a revitalized bakery in the old home of the Wheat Ridge Dairy, start with great fresh breads. Case in point: the sausage sandwich, a chewy baguette stuffed with peppers, onions, provolone and a hungry-guy-sized portion of well-seasoned sausage. If Ralphie hadn't been decapitated during the fourth season of The Sopranos, he'd lose his head over this one.
The founder of Taste of Philly, a six-seater joint, came from Yeadon, Pennsylvania, and its new owners are from South Jersey -- but that's okay, because Jersey is a lot closer to Philly than, say, Littleton or Lyons. The space is decorated in East Coast-refugee style, with a bunch of Philadelphia paraphernalia tacked up on the limited wall space, including the requisite framed print of Rocky Balboa. More important, Taste of Philly's Philly delivers the true taste of a Philadelphia cheesesteak -- an ex-pat restaurant's only real duty. Tender meat, chopped rough, is cooked perfectly on the grill, with provolone melted all through the meat, and the delicious result -- along with thin, stringy fried onions -- is then packed into an Amaroso roll (recognized as the Philly cheesesteak standard the world over). All in all, Taste of Philly puts together a memorable sandwich, the kind that people would drive across time zones for. But aren't you glad you don't have to?
"It's the best macaroni and cheese you'll ever have," our server told us, and in his eye was the gleam of the fanatic. Eat out enough, and you'll hear that kind of thing a thousand times -- that blank is the best blank you'll ever have -- and it always comes from servers who are adamant in their convictions and usually wrong. But at Le Chantecler, our waiter was absolutely right. The kitchen's lumache pasta with hard Spanish mahón cow's-milk cheese is not just the best mac-n-cheese around, but better by leaps and bounds than its closest competitor. It's cheesy, gooey, warm and satisfying, perfectly colored, perfectly cooked. And Le Chantecler gets bonus points, because this mac-n-cheese isn't even a main course, but comes cuddled on the side of an excellent spread of roasted pork medallions in a ham-hock jus.
Forget your jumped-up truffled mashers, your milk-and-cookie menus, your comfort food in all its gummy incarnations. That fad is played out, and good riddance. What's replaced it is a focus on those uncomplicated culinary pleasures that -- when done well and treated with respect, rather than tongue-in-cheek smart-assitude -- can bring more actual comfort than a hundred gallons of gussied-up beans and weenies. The best among them? The grilled cheese sandwich. At Chedd's, owners Dirk and Wendy Bruley have made this modest sandwich an object of gustatory worship. Grilled cheese is all they do at Chedd's, in about 17 billion combinations. On the chalkboard behind the counter, they've listed twelve kinds of bread, over thirty kinds of cheese, eight meats, a dozen varieties of vegetables and spreads, and assorted condiments, which you can mix and match for the grilled cheese sandwich of your dreams.
There's so much to love about Parisi, beginning with the restaurant and ending with the deli, which is what dedicated foodies hope heaven will look like when they die -- from the frozen Muscovy ducks to all the homemade stocks for the home cook. But the best thing at the deli, and one of the reasons the food in the restaurant section is so good, is the big basket of baseball-sized rounds of handmade, fresh-milk mozzarella. Depending on when you arrive and how the kitchen is operating, you can have a taste of cheese made just moments before you walked in the door, and you're never going to get cheese more than a few hours old, because this stuff sells fast. Smooth, silky, milky and mild, Parisi's mozz is a cheese whiz.
It's such a simple thing, the burrito. Take some rice and beans, some meat, a little salsa, spread it on a soft tortilla, fold and go. It's the ultimate convenience food, was in the vanguard of the Mexican-cuisine invasion that changed the way our entire country eats, and still stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the dumpling, the cheeseburger, foie gras and cassoulet in the pantheon of mankind's great food innovations. Although the burrito is now served in wondrous variety at hundreds of restaurants across the city, Chipotle takes the prize for its constant improvement of what started life as the best burrito in town and now has become the best burrito on the planet. From free-range Niman Ranch meats to organic beans, fluffy rice that's perfect no matter what hour you arrive, chewy tortillas heated to order, three distinct salsas and great guac made fresh all day, this Denver creation born out of the newfangled ideas and dedication of hometown boy and former line cook Steve Ells does everything right. True, Chipotle is now a McDonald's brand. And yes, what began as a simple University of Denver-area taquería has been transformed into one of the fastest-growing, most pervasive chains in the country. But you know what? Sometimes success comes to those who actually deserve it.
"It's the best macaroni and cheese you'll ever have," our server told us, and in his eye was the gleam of the fanatic. Eat out enough, and you'll hear that kind of thing a thousand times -- that blank is the best blank you'll ever have -- and it always comes from servers who are adamant in their convictions and usually wrong. But at Le Chantecler, our waiter was absolutely right. The kitchen's lumache pasta with hard Spanish mahón cow's-milk cheese is not just the best mac-n-cheese around, but better by leaps and bounds than its closest competitor. It's cheesy, gooey, warm and satisfying, perfectly colored, perfectly cooked. And Le Chantecler gets bonus points, because this mac-n-cheese isn't even a main course, but comes cuddled on the side of an excellent spread of roasted pork medallions in a ham-hock jus.
A truly great breakfast burrito must be three things: It must be big, it must be messy, and it must be capable of curing anything from a simple hangover to Patagonian skull fever in just one serving. At Pete's, the kitchen makes a breakfast burrito that accomplishes all three admirably. First, this burrito is huge -- a big tortilla, liberally stuffed with potatoes and a simple omelet of meat (bacon, sausage or ham) and two eggs, large enough to fill an entire platter end to end. Second, it's plenty messy, because the cook takes this big-ass burrito, hits it with a fistful of traffic-cone-orange shredded cheese, then glops up the whole thing with pork-spiked and spicy Colorado verde. And third, you can forget your grandmother's chicken soup; there's no malady known to man that can stand up to one of Pete's massive burritos. So no matter what ails you, if you have the strength to stagger up to the counter to order one of these monsters, we guarantee you'll be feeling better by the time you leave.

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