"Years ago, when we were talking about this restaurant...we wanted to build a restaurant that was more vegetable-forward and grains and legumes," adds Jennifer Jasinski, the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Ultreia, Stoic & Genuine, Rioja and Bistro Vendôme; she's the consulting chef on the museum project.
She and Love worked together to develop the menu. "This is a partnership, and Ben is the guy here every day making this place happen and making it delicious," Jasinski notes.
While the other new eatery at the museum, Cafe Gío, is open only during museum hours and offers quick service in a casual setting, the Ponti is meant to be more than a stopover for art lovers. The restaurant is open to all diners, making it an enticing lunch option for downtown workers who have returned to offices. The menu is loaded with dishes that are nutritious and satisfying — the type of food you could eat several times a week — and the design is sleek and elegant. It's open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and has an abridged bar menu available from 2 to 5 p.m. Dinner is currently served from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays only.
If you're looking for "More Substantial" offerings, there's a section for that, too. It's where you'll find the Ponti's lineup of sandwiches, including a tempeh reuben ($17) that manages to mimic the flavor of corned beef while remaining vegetarian. Or beef up with a blended burger ($18) that beefs up beef from Buckner Family Farm with crimini and porcini mushrooms; it's served on a brioche bun with aioli, Gruyère, confit tomato and arugula. Both of those options are served with sweet potato fries and a housemade pickle.
At Rioja, one of the highlights is Jasinski's handmade pasta, and that makes an appearance at the Ponti, too. There's a farro verde fettuccine ($18) on offer, as well as what may be the most indulgent option at this restaurant: cavatelli ($19) with a sugo made with lamb from Buckner Family Farm, crispy rosemary and tomato confit.
While many restaurants are still cutting lunch because of staffing shortages, the Ponti offers an upscale option that may hit your wallet harder than a fast-food fix, but also provides just the right mix of nutrition and indulgence to make your mid-day break a treat that you won't regret later.
The Ponti is located on level one of the Sie Welcome Center at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday. For more information, visit thepontidenver.com.