Trattoria Stella, at 3470 West 32nd Avenue, has been serving up a unique style of Italian cooking since 1999; its younger sibling at 3201 East Colfax Avenue, which originally opened as Cafe Star, adopted the Trattoria Stella name and style in 2008, doubling your chances to taste that cooking. Seasonality and creativity keep both locations from sinking into the standard red-sauce slog. And now at the Colfax Stella, chef Forrest Bayne has made a recent update to the menu.
Bayne has been with Stella for more than five years, including two as the executive chef. He's added spring and summer ingredients, from corn and peaches to peas and cherry tomatoes, for bursts of flavor in traditional Italian offerings as well as more adventurous chef's-menu options. Burrata, for example, may be popping up in every bistro and cafe around town, but at Stella, the dish — starring a pure-white orb of Di Stephano cheese — comes with housemade peach jam brightened with a hint of vinegar and a basil emulsion that stands in as a smoother version of pesto. To bolster the pesto comparison, a dusting of powdered pistachio nuts garnishes the cheese.
Also made in-house are breads and pastas, so you'll find toasty focaccia with that burrata and all manner of noodles, ravioli, gnocchi and lasagna on the more traditional side of the menu. One of the new standouts, though, comes without a single strand of pasta. Instead, a bed of smoked-corn crema makes a fine replacement for polenta, with meaty scallops and slow-cooked pork belly nestled in. It's a great spring-to-summer transition, with alternating notes of sweet and smoky.
Trattoria Stella straddles old and new Colfax, with posh red-vinyl booths and a dim interior reminiscent of Denver's old-school Italian joints, but with a modern approach to cooking that keeps up with current trends. Here are a few more photos of what to expect if you go.
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