First Look

First Look: Quality Italian Brings Manhattan Style to Cherry Creek's Halcyon Hotel

Quality Italian's lasagna uses rolled pasta and filet mignon meatballs instead of the typical layered configuration.
Quality Italian's lasagna uses rolled pasta and filet mignon meatballs instead of the typical layered configuration. Mark Antonation
The Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek is already home to one elaborately decked-out dining space in Departure, with its retro-futuristic decor that evokes a luxury liner headed straight for the stars. And then there's the semi-secret B & GC in the basement, a poshly appointed art-deco bar for hotel guests, membership holders and those in the know (hint: text 720-925-8598 for same-day reservations). And now comes Quality Italian, the newest in New York City restaurateur Michael Stillman's lineup.

Like its culinary companions at the Halcyon, Quality Italian impresses from the first look, with dark woods that recall dimly lit Italian grottoes in Manhattan, and modern flourishes from light fixtures made out of reclaimed butcher-shop tools to vintage stone headers suspended in a cagework of steel. The design comes courtesy of AvroKO, a firm that also designed the interior of the hotel as well as Union Station and the Crawford Hotel downtown.
click to enlarge The exterior of Quality Italian on Columbine Street on the ground floor of the Halcyon Hotel. - MARK ANTONATION
The exterior of Quality Italian on Columbine Street on the ground floor of the Halcyon Hotel.
Mark Antonation

Chef/partners (in real life as well as in the business) Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli are responsible for the original Quality Italian menu in New York City; they've been in Denver working on the menu here, along with opening executive chef Franz Hueber (most recently of Salt Bistro in Boulder), who will head the kitchen once Rito and Tacinelli return home. Creative interpretations of classic Italian dishes and tableside flourishes add a touch of drama and entertainment to the menu; the rolled lasagna for two (served with filet mignon meatballs), for example, was inspired by a photo of cinnamon rolls Rito found while combing the Internet. Pastry chef Cory Colton is no less imaginative; his burrata cheesecake comes courtesy of modern science. Stracciatella (sweetened and flecked with vanilla bean) makes up the creamy interior, but the skin is the result of sphericization, rather than pulled and stretched mozzarella.

An evening in the dining room might reveal ribeye served with steak sauce made while you watch, baked clams with warm butter poured at the last minute to create an aromatic cloud as it hits the hot, steel serving pan, or a circular chicken Parmesan built to mimic a margherita pizza.
click to enlarge The "burrata" cheesecake is made with a modern sphericization technique instead of being wrapped in fresh mozzarella. - MARK ANTONATION
The "burrata" cheesecake is made with a modern sphericization technique instead of being wrapped in fresh mozzarella.
Mark Antonation

Bar manager Bryan Schneider presides over a list of house cocktails constructed with housemade and Italian ingredients, but wine lovers will also be impressed by Quality Italian's deep list by the glass and bottle, with vertical runs of vintage labels available (for a pretty penny).

The restaurant opens Thursday, March 2, for dinner nightly from 4 to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Lunch will be added on weekdays beginning March 20, and weekend brunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. beginning April 1. For more food and interior photos, see our complete Quality Italian slideshow.
click to enlarge At the bar at Quality Italian. - MARK ANTONATION
At the bar at Quality Italian.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge The Lambrusco Cobbler, with a lemony touch of housemade limoncello. - MARK ANTONATION
The Lambrusco Cobbler, with a lemony touch of housemade limoncello.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Quality Italian's main dining room. - MARK ANTONATION
Quality Italian's main dining room.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge The Warrant Room has a canary theme as a reminder of Colorado's mining history. - MARK ANTONATION
The Warrant Room has a canary theme as a reminder of Colorado's mining history.
Mark Antonation

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation