Cafe Society

Sauce Rules

At its most elemental, a great shrimp scampi consists of shrimp, garlic, lemon and white wine. It is shrimp in an Italian beurre blanc—the garlic (and shallots) used to start a sauté pan, seasoned with good olive oil, deglazed with white wine, spritzed with lemon juice and mounted, at the last minute, with a knob of high-fat sauté butter. When cooked at the right heat (read: high) and done at the proper speed (read: fast), this composed sauce will be an unbreakable monster, slick and smooth and silky with a flavor like being hit in the mouth with a garlic-and-lemon brick. The shrimp? They’re tossed in almost as an afterthought. In Italian cooking, everything beyond the sauce is simply a transport vessel for the sauce. Sauce rules. At Gemelli’s -- a new Italian restaurant in northwest Denver that's the focus of this week’s review -- the cooks understand this. They get the notion of essentials: of simple, basic things done extraordinarily well.

And while not everything I had while camped out in the Gemelli’s dining room rose to the level of this excellent shrimp scampi, much of it did. I’d gone there to try to knock the memory of that nasty shrimp scampi I'd had at Grand Lux Café out of my head, and ended up having myself a fine dinner in the process. A couple of them, actually.

While I was in the neighborhood, I also looked in on Mike Scarafiotti at 3 Sons, and got the story about why this legendary outpost of north Denver Italian dining is flying so many For Sale signs. And then I headed downtown for a peek at what’s been going on since Patrick Pool re-opened the failed Pizzeria Mundo.

I didn’t mean for it to turn into Italian week here at Bite Me World HQ. That’s just the way things turned out. But since you’re here, you may as well pull up a chair, say buon giorno and join the conversation when the new issue arrives on this site, and the street, tomorrow. -- Jason Sheehan

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun