Mouthing Off

Although Angelo's has been around for 25 years, other joints in the area were tossing pies long before Angelo Laveo opened his eatery -- and they still do. Claiming senior status is the Bonnie Brae Tavern, an outpost of culinary civilization when it opened in the '30s at 740 South University Boulevard. Across the street, at 727 South, there's the Saucy Noodle, founded in 1964 by Sam Badis. His granddaughter, Erin Markham, now owns the place and was in the process of expanding next door (Mouthing Off, March 2) when a disastrous fire hit late last month. She promises that the Noodle will reopen saucier than ever.

Another pioneering pizza man -- Clyde Canino, who opened his Canino's Pizzeria on South University in 1953 -- was honored last week when he was inducted into the Foodservice Hall of Fame as part of the Hospitality 2000 convention. From pizza, Canino soon branched out into Mexican -- he founded the Tico's Foods of Mexico group, as well as the Piccolo's chain of combo Italian/Mexican eateries. Although today all the Tico's outlets are gone, sold or turned into Piccolo's, Canino still owns four of the latter, as well as the all-Italian-all-the-time Canino's at 613 South College Avenue in Fort Collins, which is run by his son Clyde. And he recently opened Piccolo Pronto, a faster-food version of Piccolo's at 5996 South Holly, which is managed by another son, Marty.

Apparently blood is as thick as red sauce: Clyde Canino is the brother of Roland Canino, owner of Canino's Trattoria, at 2390 South Downing. And while the two weren't speaking for a few years and still don't do business together, reportedly the Caninos are again one big, happier family.

Restaurants are a family affair for another new Hall of Fame inductee, Pierre Wolfe, who's been treating Denver diners to excellent French food since he opened the long-gone Patio in Littleton in the mid-'50s. He went on to open The Normandy in 1958 with his cousin, Heinz Gerstle, at 4900 East Colfax Avenue; it's still going strong at 1515 Madison (Tante Louise occupies its original home). Wolfe's daughter, Karen Wolfe-Hermann, now runs both the Normandy and the attached Chez Michelle with the help of their new chef, Phil Levy, who came here from Chicago. As a result, Wolfe is free to travel around the world and also to work on his book. It's about restaurants, of course -- defunct Denver institutions such as Laffite, Leo's Place, Trader Vic's, Dudley's, Café Giovanni and Wolfe's own Quorum, which was a hip, happenin' spot (he swears!) from 1960 to 1990.

The rest of this year's Hall of Famers: Century Management partners Gerald Kernis and Bobby Rifkin, best known for the Diamond Cabaret Steakhouse (1222 Glenarm Place) and the Fresh Fish Company (7800 East Hampden Avenue) -- although the Pacific Star Supper Club, at 1735 Lawrence Street, was a notable recent Rifkin venture; and Bernard, Stanley and Arnold Kaufman, who own Stores Equipment Co., a restaurant supplier.

The sky's the limit

No award-winners showed up during a recent contest to name the restaurant that opens this week at 1700 Vine Street, a space once occupied by Juanita's Uptown and the next-door Mike Berardi's. So the building's new owners -- Hornet partners Dave French, Paul Greaves, Brewster Hanson, Lisa Quinn and Pat Henry -- had to name the place themselves and came up with...Skydiner. The menu was conceived by Hornet chef Karl Rinehart, who added a mishmash of world flavors to the roster; more casual dining will be available at the Rhino Room, which opens in May in the former pool hall behind Skydiner. And this summer, the nearby space that was the 17th Avenue Theatre joins the lineup as the Sugar Lounge. Although the name Skydiner makes me think of the tune "Sky Pilot," which is enough to make anyone run shrieking into the night, apparently it refers to the restaurant's lighting and sky-blue bar.

Just don't confuse the place with Blue67, a martini bar/restaurant soon to open at 1475 Lawrence, the former home of Mediterra, or Sacre Bleu, set to debut late this month at 410 East Seventh Avenue, in the space formerly filled by JV's The Cork and Transalpin before that.

Ch-ch-ch-changes: New menus are popping up like early crocuses. Look for new versions of the same rich, heavy Italian dishes at Basil Ristorante (846 Broadway) -- the apricot-glazed quail stuffed with pancetta, sun-dried cherries and bread on roesti potatoes has my mouth watering already. A block away, Racine's (850 Bannock) has added some otherworldly, upscale items, including an ahi tuna wrap and Sonoran egg rolls. Palettes (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway at the Denver Art Museum) is lightening up with spring vegetables and salads; the roster at Restaurant 1515 Market (1515 Market Street) also includes lighter fare.

Up in Boulder, Q's at the Hotel Boulderado (2115 13th Street) continues to change its menu monthly; chef/owner John Platt has also instituted five-course menus that change nightly. The price, however, stays the same: It's $50 per person, with wines to match for another $30. If you're looking for just a taste of Platt's expertise, check out the champagne brunch May 7, which will be four courses, including caviar and fine bubblies; call 303-442-4880 for reservations. Q's will also participate in this year's Share Our Strength/Taste of the Nation fundraiser in Boulder, scheduled for 5:30-9:30 p.m. April 30 in the Glenn Miller Ballroom at CU-Boulder. The cost is $45 and includes tastings and vino from about forty Boulder restaurants; call 303-652-3663 for more info.

Many miles south, another "Taste" event, the Taste of the Tech, runs from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on May 25 at the Sheraton (7007 South Clinton Road, Englewood). Tickets are $20 per person, and the event benefits the worthy Denver Rescue Mission. Twenty of the DTC area's best restaurants -- I didn't know the DTC had twenty restaurants -- are supposed to be there, and entertainment will come courtesy of the Queen City Jazz Trio and the Jackman Brothers. For reservations, call 303-297-1815.

No news is good news

Next door to Angelo's at 630 East Sixth Avenue, the former Newsstand Cafe, newly renamed Finster Bros. Sixth Avenue Cafe, continues to draw complaints from neighborhood types complaining about the service (Mouthing Off, February 3). But I've stopped by for coffee drinks three times now, all at different times of the day, and I've had nothing but cheerful, efficient service. And on one of those occasions, I sat at a table reading magazines and paying my bills for two hours while drinking one measly cup of coffee, and no staffer so much as blinked at me. That definitely wasn't the case under the old regime. So to those of you who are still cranky about the place -- are you sure you're not the ones with the attitude?

My March 30 Second Helping on Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant (431 South Broadway) prompted an e-mail from a reader who pointed out that the Imperial doesn't offer green tea ice cream. And he's right -- the kitchen serves ginger ice cream, but since it tasted like a damp, cardboard box, I might as well have been eating green tea. Or brown tea. Or old tea bags. Apparently the restaurant hasn't been happy with the ice cream, either, because Imperial confirms that they're considering switching to a different brand -- Claudia's, perhaps, which is made in Denver and was mentioned by the e-mailer -- and possibly adding the green tea flavor. Hey, even dry cardboard would be better than what they're serving now.

Poor Oscar Aguirre caught some flak from the folks at Las Delicias and some of its fans, who accused him of dissing Las D in last week's Mouthing Off. The disputed item involved a recent Wall Street Journal story that gave good ink to the Aguirre family, which runs Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe (2005 West 33rd Avenue); Oscar's mother, Rosa Linda, was quoted extensively in the piece. Talking with Westword about the article, culinary student Oscar mentioned that he wanted to add a wine list to Rosa Linda's repertoire and make other changes to "distinguish ourselves from Las Delicias and El Noa Noa" -- the latter of which, by the way, is owned by one of his relatives.

By that, Oscar says, he meant making Rosa Linda's different, not better than the other two eateries. "The people who called think I was saying that I think we serve better food and that I think we're the shit, and that's definitely not what I was saying," he says. "What I was trying to convey was that we need to do something to make ourselves stand out. It's restaurants like Las Delicias and El Noa Noa that have made this a great culinary city, and I was not in any way suggesting that there is anything wrong with those places."

Although he's sorry for any confusion, "I think this will help me to step up to the plate and deliver on what I'm trying to do," Oscar says. "This is about me having a goal for my family's restaurant, and I plan to do the best I can to achieve that goal."

And, hey -- if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.