The Halcyon Hotel at 245 Columbine Street in Cherry Creek is already home to one restaurant, Departure, as well as a secret-entry bar called Boys & Girls Club in the basement. But later this month, those two will be joined by Quality Italian, a New York City concept headed by restaurateur Michael Stillman.
The idea itself is very New York: an Italian-American eatery that specializes in steaks, pasta and seafood, all served with old-school tableside flair. While construction is currently walled off from curious eyes wanting a peek inside, the company's general M.O. is building restaurants that pay homage to Manhattan's vintage butcher shops, so while the dry-aged steaks, shellfish platters and elegant cocktails can lean toward the pricey side, the environment itself will be lively and convivial, not staid and stuffy.
Stillman, along with chef/partners Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, unveiled a few dishes last night to let Denverites know what they're in for. The jaw-dropper on the menu is the Quality Parm-Pizza, which is served and sliced pizza-style (complete with seasoning shakers and honey), but turns out to be a fourteen-inch disk of breaded and fried chicken sausage topped with marinara and molten mozzarella. This one's sure to draw thrillseekers based on its reputation alone; Stillman says the New York Quality Italian sells about eighty a night.
Nearly as dramatic is the dry-aged tomahawk chop, served on a cutting board with a pile of roasted veggies and a mortar and pestle that the server uses to whip up a steak sauce while you watch. And there's plenty more for fans of food served with a flourish. Baked clams are served in a sizzling pan and doused with sauce at your table to produce a steamy cloud of garlic-butter aroma, and whole prawns are split down the middle and grilled with uni (sea urchin) butter. On the bar side, a nitro-poured Negroni cascades like a pint of Guinness — beverage director Bryan Schneider says its a cocktail created for beer lovers — and a margarita comes with a tri-colored ice cube that flavors the cocktail as it melts (if you can wait that long before downing your drink).
Other bites capture the homey quality of Italian-American cooking, like garlic toast topped with sausage and peppers. But sophisticated hamachi and tuna crudos show off the kitchen's subtler side.
Stillman hopes to have Quality Italian open by the end of February; once the big reveal happens, the restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week as well as weekend brunch. Keep reading for more food photos.
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