Sometimes, you just want to get dolled up and splurge for brunch. And the place to do that? Panzano, located in the swanky Hotel Monaco downtown. This timeless Italian rendezvous has been garnering accolades a Mile High since opening more than fifteen years ago. And like a fine wine, this is one spot that only gets better with age.
While dinner at Panzano can be a more formal affair, weekend brunch mirrors the vibe of the hotel, where guests might just as easily roll out of bed and head downstairs in yoga pants or show up dressed to the nines — with no one giving as much as a sideways glance for either end of the spectrum. The dining room is a large space of serene grays, blown glass chandeliers and wallpaper depicting an Italian skyline punctuated by picture frames of varying sizes. It’s contemporary meets refined — a crowd pleaser for your mom, your mom’s mom and the whole family in general. The kitchen cranks up for one of the earlier brunches in town, so if the hunger pangs hit as soon as the sun goes up, you can join the jet set as early as 8 a.m. or stop by with the late-sleepers until 2:30 p.m. Either way, a reservation isn't a difficult score since the place is big and has been around long enough that it's off the radar of Denver's scenester horde.
Prices aren't listed on the brunch cocktail menu, generally a telling sign that you’re going to do some damage. Drinks range from $9 to $13 — priced for a captive hotel audience. If you're in a celebratory mood, bottomless bellinis or “un-bellinis” — for flavors other than peach — may be the way to go. Or just spring for Champagne because as the saying goes, brunch without bubbles is just a sad late breakfast.
Entree prices also hit downtown levels, running the gamut from $11 for a basic two-egg breakfast to $24 for fancier Italian fare. We stayed mid-range with a dolled-up Benedict and chicken gnocchi hash.
The Benedict featured two poached eggs over a thickly stuffed polenta cake layered with stringy mozzarella, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, fontina and a topping of Prosecco Hollandaise, all atop an olive-oil-forward basil pesto. A complex dish bursting with flavors and textures, it's a dense and heavy dish for one, but a good option to share. The gnocchi hash was just the opposite: a dish we planned to share but that left us fighting over the last bite. Fine shreds of chicken confit were sautéed with a brunoise of red onions, peppers and fresh herbs along with bite-sized potato gnocchi topped with a sunny side up egg, roasted tomatoes and the same delicious Prosecco Hollandaise — the same sauce that added to the richness of the first dish which in the hash accentuated the light cohesiveness of the ingredients.
The surprising standout though? Toast made from honey-walnut and white breads baked fresh in-house every morning in a stone oven. Once you catch a glimpse into the bustling open kitchen, it really should come as no surprise why this is one doggone good loaf. Glistening with butter, the toast didn't even need the accompanying side of jam — almost an injustice as the honey in the bread sung with a sweetness of its own. Panzano's attention to something as basic as bread keeps this classic fresh.