Last fall, chef Samir Mohammad was living in Breckenridge while helping his family open Artisan 206. But now he's back in Denver, and he's just launched a new project in an unlikely location. Bettola Bistro opened last week at 10253 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora.
Up until recently, that address was occupied by the delightfully eclectic Cody's Cafe & Bar, owned by Sue Smith, who combined Italian cooking with international influences, including Vietnamese touches from her home country. Mohammad explains that Cody's is only temporarily closed and will soon re-emerge nearby. Smith also owned New Orient, one of the city's oldest Vietnamese restaurants, until she closed it in May. Cody's will take over that space, at 10203 East Iliff Avenue, later this summer.
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Mohammad is no stranger to international cuisine himself, having previously headed the kitchens at Black Pearl, Lala's, the Village Cork (which will close this weekend after sixteen years in business) and the Rendezvous Cafe at History Denver, with some time in between as the executive chef for resorts in Southeast Asia. But at Bettola, he's keeping the menu traditionally Italian, with pasta dishes, a few large entrees and an enticing wine list.
Bettola means "hole in the wall" (in the sense of a tavern or "joint") in Italian, and Mohammad's Bettola is fronted with a sign that reads "An Italian Hole-in-the-Wall Bistro." The cozy space, even when it was still Cody's, is quite a change from the globe-spanning eateries around it, such as the Sudan Cafe, Tofu House and Yemen Grill. But with a growing population of young new residents, Aurora needs restaurants like Bettola, too, which offers a slightly upscale experience without the long drive to downtown Denver.
Bettola is open from 4:30 to 9 p.m Monday through Saturday. Call 303-750-1580 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.