Change is in the air as Denver moves into summer. Seasonal dishes, chef changes and local ingredients are on the slate at restaurants looking to give guests a taste of something new. Here's what's happening at Vesta, Viàle and Range.
Viàle Pizza & Kitchen
1390 South Colorado Boulevard
Our restaurant critic, Gretchen Kurtz, was upbeat about Viàle back in January, when she enjoyed a "laid-back, neighborly meal full of welcome surprises." Since then, owners Dan and Erica Dunne have added chef Darren Pusateri to the mix, who's putting his veteran touch on warm-weather dishes as well as Viàle favorites. Juicy heirloom tomatoes make appearances on a burrata plate to balance creamy cheese with bright acidity, and on a pizza appropriately dubbed the Heirloom, which is baked and then paved with thick slabs of tomatoes and a shower of basil. Pusateri has headed some of Denver's top kitchens, including the Squeaky Bean, Guard and Grace and Izakaya Den. He says that he prefers simple preparations made with quality ingredients; his roasted-beet salad with pecan butter is evidence of that.
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1822 Blake Street
Chef Nick Kayser took the helm eighteen months ago at Vesta, which has been a top LoDo destination for more than twenty years. The chef recently wrote a summer menu that's 80 percent new, and within that roster he changes things up weekly with hyper-seasonal ingredients. So an appetizer of grilled provoletta cheese, for example, comes with different accoutrements every week that Kayser picks up at the Union Station Farmers' Market. A salad of baby greens gets its color from lettuces provided by GrowHaus, an urban farm in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, while butter-poached lobster comes with a fresh pea purée and corn shoots. And you'll find more corn in the risotto that sweetens a plate of grilled scallops. If you're truly in the mood for farm-to-table, just ask your server what the chef was shopping for this week.
918 17th Street
This downtown eatery specializing in "New American West cuisine" just hired Chris Jakubiec as its new executive chef. Jakubiec came to Denver from Washington, D.C., in 2015 to head the kitchen of the brand-new Fire restaurant inside the Art Hotel, and has since launched his own private supper club and has also done a turn as the head chef at Carbon Cafe & Bar. The chef gained attention while overseeing Plume in D.C., where he had the opportunity to cook for Barack Obama during his second term. Look for Jakubiec to begin putting his signature on the menu in the coming weeks. Chef Paul Nagan has been the executive chef at Range since the year it opened but is moving on to a new project called Narrative, which is expected to open later this summer at 222 Milwaukee Street, in Cherry Creek's new Jacquard Hotel.