Friday, May 8, 2009
Locanda Del Borgo (8.5)
What is it about these tucked away places? There's something about a place off the beaten path that just gets me. Don't get me wrong, I've done my time on Larimer or Pearl, and there are a lot of great places on either of these avenues. Location, location, location right?
Perhaps not in this instance. Locanda del Borgo speaks for itself, and it doesn't need any of the pomp or visibility to accomplish that. This is one of those places where you want to be the regular. One of those places where your favorite glass is always waiting for you. The kind of place that makes sense.
Nestled in the heart of Hilltop, Denver's best kept neighborhood secret, Locanda del Borgo's fresh homemade pasta, rich sauces, fine produce, mature wine list, and homely feel all complement perfectly. Translated as 'inn of the village', this place is as humble and welcoming as a Tuscan bed and breakfast. But there's no bacon and eggs about it. Granted, you will find these elements on their Capricciosa pizza, prominently topped with sunny-side up egg, but the translation does this place no justice. Neighboring the local cheese shop, this place is the heart of the neighborhood and on any night will be ripping at the seams with locals. Don't let that scare you away, stick to the weeknights and you're pretty much guaranteed a seat with a lively atmosphere.
This is where we get started on our culinary journey, compliments of Giancarlo Macchiarella. With a name like that, it's not just a venture. It's destiny. Giancarlo takes you on a tour of Central and Southern Italy, from the hills of Tuscany to the shores of Sicily. Although contemporary in setting, the food is classical with a touch of modern creativity. Now perhaps I'm a little biased. Italian is in my blood, but Giancarlo deserves credit where it's due. He has found a way to bring the classical into everyday without too much of a buffer, and somehow managed to work buttery fresh scallops into a landlocked state.
Speaking of scallops, why not get the fritto misto to start? Accompanied by crispy prawns, lightly fried zucchini, calamari and artichoke hearts, this one is the star of the starters. On the side: a richly balanced marinara, with perfect spice.
On the second menu tier, of course you have your traditional minestrone. Don't deviate to the lentil soup here, this one's nothing to write home about. Anything with arugula will set you up nicely with a peppery palate cleanser. Substituting for the basil on the caprese was a nice touch here, adding a patriotic red, white and green tribute to the homeland. Pay attention to the specials on this course too, to our luck we took advantage of decadent charred artichokes with goat cheese and a basil vinaigrette.
With antipasti options, risottos, gnocchis, pastas, meats, fish etc. the entree course can be as unique as you wish. Lending itself to family style service, getting a number of these plates and sharing can be quite the treat. But if you're selfish, don't miss the rich, smoky cioppino or Colorado lamb and keep them to yourself. Yes, Locanda works to minimize food miles and uses locally sourced options wherever possible.
Down to the last detail, the Misto Carne wraps angus steak, grilled lamb chops and housemade sausage together with a tangy balsamic drizzle. The sweet, spicy, savory balance to this plate is noteworthy.
So next time you're around 3rd and Holly, make sure to enjoy a crisp summer's eve sipping Pinot Grigio on the patio, or warm up next to the wood-burning forno oven with a plate of homemade lasagna. Take an order of mussels to go. Whatever your fancy, Locanda is versatile to meet it.
My recommendation: Dish It Up.
The Denver Dish is an open forum. Please feel free to let me know how your experience at Locanda del Borgo was. I'm looking forward to hearing your comments on the blog in general as well.