Some restaurants change over time. Some places stay exactly the same. The mission of Second Helping is to separate one from the other.
Via was an awesome restaurant when I reviewed it sixteen months ago. Opened by Venanzio and Anthony Momo — who also own Cucina Coloré in Cherry Creek and employed Andrea Frizzi, now of Il Posto (see review, page 45), in both kitchens — it had gone through some tough times: opening strong under Frizzi, nose-diving in the care of Rollie Wesen, then coming back again under the skilled hand of James Mazzio.
Mazzio was the man in charge in April 2007, and he still is today. It shows: Via remains a constant, consistent source for superior, glossy trattoria cuisine. From the first moment (excellent table bread, served warm and soft as if straight from the oven, and with a powerful seasoned oil on the side) to the last (key lime semifreddo with a glass of ten-year-old port), Via has got it together in exactly the way a restaurant going into its fourth year should: It has a sense of veteran ease, as if the house has been doing this, and exactly this, forever.
1801 Wynkoop Street
Last week, I dropped in for a late lunch. Riding the curve of service, I had a cup of escarole and cannelini bean soup with bacon that had just been put on the heat — perfectly cooked greens, crunchy and soft at the same time, with al dente white beans and a sprinkling of chopped bacon for salt and savor. I followed it with the house's near-signature handmade lobster ravioli in red-pepper saffron sauce that required two additional plates of bread from the kitchen for mopping and a strength of character that I frankly didn't think I possessed not to just pick the dish up when I was done and lick it.
Mazzio has trained his guys well and assembled a solid, if not particularly innovative, board of high-end Italian staples; just for kicks, he also puts out several specials every week just to keep everything feeling fresh and vital. It's rare that I get to say that a place is unchanged from when it was first reviewed — but in the case of Via, that's high praise indeed.
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