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Veggie Girl: Parisi

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I love Italian food. So much, in fact, that I once spent a month in Florence taking Italian language classes -- that I then immediately put to the test in my Italian cooking classes. Not a word of English was spoken, and sure, there was some confusion (my book of Italian recipes, filled with my illegible Italian scrawls and confusing metric measurements, is useless to me now), but oh, the food! I'll never forget the zucchini blossom risotto, or the time-consuming-but-worth-it gnocchi.

Parisi, at 4401 Tennyson Street, is one of my favorite spots for Italian food. Owner Simone Parisi hails from Florence, and his restaurant has the feel of a real Florentine Italian bistro, a place where the food is served casually, the prices are reasonable and the flavors always fresh.

My first love at Parisi was the rich, flavorful tomato bisque, and the Boccaccio grill pressed crostone sandwich ($7.99) is my favorite sandwich in town. Filled with fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, tomato and basil pesto, it is simple and simply perfect.

My husband is devoted to Parisi's pizza, and has declared the Margherita ($9.99) his favorite pie in town. The few times I've managed to sneak a bite, the crust has always been thin and crispy, loaded with high-quality toppings.

When we stopped by Parisi for dinner the other night, we discovered that the restaurant now offers complimentary valet service -- a good idea, since that stretch of Tennyson just keeps getting hotter and hotter, and parking has become really scarce.

I'd planned on ordering my usual sandwich and soup, but at the last minute decided to try the gnocchi Sorrentina ($10.99). The homemade potato dumplings had been tossed with fresh basil and mozzarella and covered with a creamy marinara sauce that was unexpectedly spicy and loaded with onions -- but luckily, I like onions. If you don't, Parisi also has a gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and walnuts that sounds fantastic.

Now that I've started branching out, I already know what I'll try next: the Tagliatelle al Pomodoro. I'll be staying away from the risotto, though; while I'm a big fan of the dish, Parisi uses chicken stock (which the menu does mention).

No matter what you order at Parisi, it's bound to be good. Just remember to save room for a scoop of the homemade gelato.

For more information, visit www.parisidenver.com or call 303-561-0234. -- Aubrey Shoe

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