Mussels used to be the kind of thing Jess and I always ordered when the opportunity presented itself. But fair to say that in recent years we've been burned from time to time and had a pretty bad spell there for awhile. You'd think it wouldn't be too difficult to set up a good batch, but I'd seen far too many dirty, broken, dead, gritty, bearded mussels that I found myself jaded. I'm the kid kicking a can down the road, broken hearted and depressed, trying to figure out if I'll ever love again. Enter Pizza Republica.
Jess and I dropped in one night hoping to catch a flick at the Landmark and opted to dine al fresco at the neighboring joint. As the name suggests, they're more upfront as to their Neapolitan wood-fired pizza at the center of the menu, and sure most folks probably walk in for just that. But something peculiar happened when we worked our way through the meal, settled up our check and walked hand in hand to the cinema. We didn't find ourselves talking about the wine. We weren't reminiscing about the pizza, which still lingered on our palates. But rather, we were raving about the mussels. Finally, again, love is in the air.
Since the picture can't tell the whole story here, allow me to unpack. A towering stack of plump, flavorful, meaty mussels stew in a warm, tomato and garlic broth; each one was grand in size, very tender, flavorful, and there wasn't a closed one in the lot. They come topped off with grilled ciabatta bread for soaking, and if you're anything like us, you'll want to dive into your pocket for another dollar to get an extra portion. We aren't the only ones who couldn't leave the broth behind after the mussels were gone as they even have a separate line item in their POS system for 'extra mussel bread'. Within reason. After a generous portion of the stuff hits your table, you'll notice that the char from the bread melds beautifully with the tangy spice of the broth, which is laced with oregano, garlic, shallot, white wine, red pepper and spices. Sweet, savory, bold. I even had to fight off the waiter in order to prevent him from stealing what looked like an empty bowl. Little did he know, I was planning on dipping the crust from my pizza in it as well. Or maybe next time I should just ask for a straw and save everyone the trouble.
I think the reason why we love these so much is because they're not too far from traditional, what I would consider a true brothy bowl of mussels to be like. As if I were sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean racing the sea breeze to the bottom of the bowl. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for culinary creativity, but when something can be traditionally executed and done so well, I have to give credit where its due. Being that Jess and I have been back numerous times to Pizza Republica in Greenwood Village just for their mussels, I'm confident in saying they deserve that credit.
Dish It Up!
Cost: $11; $5 for happy hour half-size
HH is 3:30-6:30 daily, all night Sunday