100 Favorite Dishes: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo

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No. 89 Clams and chorizo from Gozo 30 South Broadway 720-638-1462 The wood-fired oven at Gozo is the centerpiece of the kitchen, both in terms of its rustic physical presence and its imprint on the food touched by its fire. Gozo executive chef Nicholas Petrilli designed a menu of piccolo (small plates) and entrees that the kitchen turns out with masterful skill -- perfumed by wood, lightly charred by heat and imbued with old-world magic unachievable in standard ovens. An unassuming bowl of shellfish and sausage in a light sauce rises to the level of brilliance because of that oven and the kitchen's philosophy of dishes prepared with patience and simplicity.

See also: Review: Gozo is a real hot spot -- in more ways than one

The clams themselves get the perfect amount of time in that oven, staying juicy and tender, bathed in their own brine. The chorizo adds a touch of spicy kick and sweetness from the browned, nubby surface, while chickpeas add a nutty flavor. A delicious broth mingles a touch of acidity from wine with the flavors of the pan. A few slivers of garlic and herbs punctuate the dish without dominating.

Simplicity can be difficult to master; there's nothing to hide behind. Without elaborate plating, heavy sauces or exotic ingredients, a kitchen stands on the purity of its ingredients and the perfection of its technique. Gozo nails them both with this dish, so much so that you'll want extra bread just to mop up the remnants in the bowl.

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch No 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's No 94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria No 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co.

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