No. 61: Manzo at Spuntino
The star of this smoky dish at Spuntino, a diminutive neighborhood Italian eatery with big aspirations, is melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek, a cut of meat sadly not often seen on the average menu. Luckily for diners, chef and co-owner Cindhura Reddy knows its merit.
"Although steak is delicious, we wanted to give our guests a chance to try a cut of beef they might not have tried before in a friendly, accessible way," says the chef, adding that the dish was inspired by the summer barbecue season. "The beef cheek, due to its rich, marbled nature, makes it the perfect vehicle for curing, smoking with fruit woods, and then slow braising."
This is exactly what Reddy does to the meat, and with each tender bite, you can taste the time and effort she puts into it. The lovely piece of Red Kumamato heritage beef gets complemented by uber-creamy corn polenta, bits of crunchy Napa cabbage and half of a fried jalapeño. That last ingredient really works to help cut the richness of the dish while giving diners the ability to add heat to each bite depending on how much they desire. The overall goal is a hearty plate featuring a Southern-comfort flare — but because Spuntino sources much of the products from local farms and ranches, it tastes decidedly like Colorado. In fact, the beef cheek comes from Western Slope cattle company 7X Beef, the corn is the state's beloved Olathe, and the herbs flavoring the menu item get picked at Rebel Farm in southwest Denver and from the charming box garden right in front of the restaurant.
At $27, the manzo is currently the most expensive option on the menu, but between the hefty portion and stick-to-your-ribs consistency, it's enough to satisfy just about anybody for dinner. That doesn't mean you should pass up the burrata with heirloom tomatoes if its still in season, or pass on a glass of stunning Italian wine from Spuntino's excellent, well-curated list.
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
No. 96: Housemade Burrata at Viand
No. 95: Schweinshaxe at Rhein Haus
No. 94 Kimchi Jeon at Seoul BBQ
No. 93: Zuppa Pomodoro at Parisi Italian Market & Deli
No. 92: The Ocean Salad at Sushi-Rama
No. 91: The Signature Bowl from Churn & Burn
No. 90: Green Chorizo at Los Compadres
No. 89: The Diavola Calzone at Pino's Neighborhood Pizzeria
No. 88: Biscuits and Green Chile at the Noshery
No. 87: Chirashi at Izu Sushi
No. 86: Brisket and Ribs at GQue Championship BBQ
No. 85: The Tornado at the Chowder Room
No. 84: Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Yong Gung
No. 83: A Meatball Hero at Lil' Ricci's New York Pizzeria
No. 82: Shakshuka at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
No. 81: Late-Night Ramen at Brazen
No. 80: Potato Tacos at El Tejado
No. 79: Corned Beef Heart at theWay Back
No. 78: The Fried Bologna Sandwich at Snarfburger
No. 77: Sweet Corn Mezzaluna at Bar Dough
No. 76: Duck Confit at Table 6
No. 75: Croque Monsieur at Fire
No. 74: Tahini Cookies at the Preservery
No. 73: The Alferd Packer Salad at MAD Greens
No. 72: The Tuna Poke Bowl at Ohana Island Kitchen
No. 71: Mini Chile Rellenos at La Loma
No. 70: The Combination Banh Mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 69: The Falafel Waffle at Moxie Eatery
No. 68: Korean Fried Duck Wings at Chow Urban Grill
No. 67: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at Spatola
No. 66: The Classic Burger from Skirted Heifer
No. 65: The Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocado at Poppies
No. 64: Super Pass Key Special at Pass Key
No. 63: How the West Was Won, or Biscuits and Gravy at Dozens Restaurant
No. 62: P & S Snack Mix at the Pig & the Sprout
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.