Category Archives: Italian

Garret Meyer Joins Sarto’s

Jefferson Park eatery re-establishing  its cicchetti bar.

Garret Meyer

Sarto’s, a metropolitan Italian eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has had a challenge finding its focus. When it opened nearly three years ago, Brian Laird of Barolo Grill was the first chef. Click here for my report. 

There was at least one other top toque before Meyer was appointed as executive chef. He was an interesting choice, having been at Sarto’s veteran in the early days, but his experience is broad. He once cooked at a trout fishing resort near Alamosa and did stints at Old Major, where he worked his way up to junior sous chef before initially joining Sarto’s. He left to help a friend open a fine dining barbecue restaurant in Singapore, returned briefly to Sarto’s before heading north to Alaska to serve as a chef at a boutique fishing lodge where he learned how to cure his own caviar, forage for wild mushrooms and filet a 300-pound halibut. Back in Denver, he returned to Sarto’s to take the helm as executive chef. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.

Meyer has worked  to create a culture where employees feel like they can thrive and grow. Despite his fish diversions, his approach to the menu is quintessentially Italian, using the best seasonal ingredients expertly prepared  simple and elegant dishes that are also approachable and authentic. 

Meyer doesn’t believe great food should just be reserved for special occasions.  He has returned the restaurant’s popular Cicchetti Bar back to its roots, making it less of a chef’s table and more of a place where diners can gather socially for cocktails and cicchetti, Italian small bites that change daily. The Cicchetti Bar is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Sarto’s is also adding a new calendar of events, including Saturday cooking classes and Sunday Night Screenings, featuring a themed dinner and movie in the restaurant’s private Verona Room.

Sarto’s is at 2900 West 25th Avenue, Jefferson Park, Denver.

Sarto's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Long Running Blue Parrot Closing

Louisville landmark going dark after nearly a century.

BlueParrot-signWhen I moved to Boulder in 1988, “someone” told me about two terrific Italian restaurants in Louisville: Colacci’s and the Blue Parrot.  It took me a while to get to them, but compared to the southern Italian restaurants of the Northeast, they were not at all terrific. In fact, to my palate, they were remarkably mediocre.  Low-taste recipes and throw-back ambience, better for nostalgia than for actually eating there. The Colacci family was behind both.

Colacci’s closed some years ago, and now The Blue Parrot is planning on closing at the end of the month. Their spaghetti sauce is or was bottled, but I was never motivated to look for it. Too bad it couldn’t hang on for a couple of years to celebrate its 100th birthday.  I say “RIP,” but since I couldn’t bring myself to try it a second time,  I might be partially responsible for its demise.

Should you wish to pay it a farewell visit, it is at 640 Main Street, Louisville;  303 666-0677.

Seven Fishes Swimming to Fort Collins

Italian Christmas Eve feast coming to Jax in Old Town.

At Jax, oysters "R" always in season. A chailkboard lists and the waiters recite each evening's selection.
Oysters at Jax.

Several years ago, a friend and I conspired to prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional southern Italian Christmas Eve feast. Eight or so of us had a great time. The food was good, but nothing compared to what a good restaurant kitchen can put out.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in downtown Fort Collins is putting on  special Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, featuring  fresh seafood and other exquisite dishes prepared by Jax Chef Ricky Myers.  This is the third year that Jax has put on the Festa dei Sette Pesci, but the first time I’ve been aware of it. In fact, Jax is reportedly the only restaurant in the area that is offering this unique meal on Christmas Eve.


  • Oysters on the half shell; grapa mignonette
  • Big Eye Tuna Crudo, pickled fennel and celery, orange segments,
  • herbs and Ligurian olive oil
  • Sweet Potato and Crab Arancini, oregano aioli
  • Insalata Mista, fried anchovy, grilled baby octopus, gigante beans, arugula, cauliflower, olive, cured egg yolk, anchovy vinaigrette
  • Baked Cherrystone Clams, speck and Parmesan mornay, herbed bread crumbs
  • Pan Roasted Swordfish, gnocchi al Romano, Hazel Dell mushroom Bolognese
  • Raito Bianca, mussels, house-made linguica sausage, sea lettuce,
  • chestnut cream, potato, capers
  • Zeppoles, pomegranate crème anglaise, amaretto beer caramel

The cost is $55 per person. There will also be an optional bottomless wine offering (red, white or both), and a discounted menu of wine by the bottle. Reservations are required; call 970-682-2275.

The restaurant is at 123 North College Avenue, Fort Collins.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Panzano Names New Executive Chef

Award-winning Bay Area chef to helm award-winning Denver restaurant.

panzano-logoWhen chef Jennifer Jasinski left Panzano in Denver’s Hotel Monaco to open Rioja, hers was a tough culinary act to follow. Elise Wiggins managed brilliantly, and now, she left earlier this year to establish her own restaurant, Cattivella in Stapleton, opening at some unannounced date but presumably soon.

Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly

Taking her place at Panzano is Patrick Kelly, who was at La Folie in San Francisco. In addition to this Michelin one-starred and San Francisco Chronicle 4-starred restaurant, he served as executive chef at Angèle before moving on to executive chef of culinary operations for the Au Bon Repas group that included Gitane, Claudine, Café Claude, Gaspar Brasserie and Café Claude II, as well as opening executive chef of Lure + Till in Palo Alto. I know that I just dropped a bunch of names that are familiar to Bay Area foodies but not to most of us in Colorado.

Kelly’s early years were not spent in places that foretell a sterling culinary career.  Born in Fremont Nebraska, Kelly and his family moved to Cheyenne when he was 12 years old, so in a broad sense, coming to Denver is a therefore bit of homecoming for Kelly. Between then and the Bay Area, he attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and worked at James Beard Award-wining Spiaggia. Moving West,  he was garde manger at Yountville’s Redd Restaurant), sous-chef  at Napa’s Angele Restaurant,  chef de cuisine at San Francisco’s La Folie (see above) and back at at Angele as executive chef (again at Angele). His wife Bridget is also an accomplished chef, but as far as I can tell, she’s not cooking professionally in Colorado.

Tomato & Artichoke Sauce for Ravioli

Easy-peasy sauce for spinach/cheese ravioli.

So I had this package of frozen spinach/cheese ravioli that needed a sauce. So I shopped around my online recipe box, modified several and came up with this fast and simple sauce. So simple. So tasty too. No pix, because it looks like a lot of red sauces;

Tomato & Artichoke Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 16½-ounce can peeled and chopped San Marzano (or Roma) tomatoes
1 6½-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3 fat scallions, cut into ¼-inch pieces
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

In a nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic, stir briefly, and then add tomatoes and their juice. artichoke hearts and scallions. Salt  and pepper to taste. Simmer 15 minutes.  Pour over cooked ravioli and serve with fresh grated Parmesan.

Enough for 1½-pound package of ravioli to serve 4 to 6.

Il Pastaio Satisfied Pasta Lust

‘The Brian Boitano Project’ whetted my appetite for pasta.

001We watched “The Brian Boitano Project” yesterday afternoon. This HGTV show has my name all over it. Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano is also recognized as a gifted cook, TV personality and now, the owner and renovator of an old wreck of a European country house that he fixed up beautifully in the manner of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes.

Extra credit to him for finding and buying a house in village of Favale di Malvaro in the Ligurian mountains. It’s the village the Boitano clan calls home.  Afterwards, my husband both had an urgent hunkering for pasta, so we high-tailed it to Il Pastaio in the Sunrise Center a few doors from King Soopers.

The vest-pocket restaurant and take-out place has a bit of room for deorateive touches. Otherwise, it's close-together hightops and simplicity.
The vest-pocket restaurant and take-out place has a bit of room for decorative touches. Otherwise, it’s close-together hightops, a bit of stuff on the walls and otherwise simplicity.

Good that we went early, because this small restaurant got very crowded very fast. Unless you too go early, I suggest making a reservation. And remember that Il Pastiao is only open on weekdays. The rolls are too soft-crusted to be to my liking, but everything else is house-made and first-rate — as it should, because it is not inexpensive. If you want pasta, as we did, the format is a mix-and-match affair. Pick your pasta, pick your sauce and wait till it’s assembled and brought out.

Tricolor Salad is arugula and more, including fresh-grated cheese and sun-dried tomato dressing.
Tricolor Salad is arugula, shrimp, fresh-grated cheese and sun-dried tomato dressing.
Gnocchi swimming in a creamy pesto sauce.
Gnocchi swimming in a creamy pesto sauce.
Fettucini with arrabiatta sauce, a very spicy combo of tomato, garlic, basil and whole chili peppers.
Fettucini with arrabiatta sauce, a very spicy combo of tomato, garlic, basil and whole chili peppers.
Italian mousse topped with lightly whipped cream overflows the stemmed glass. It's a new (and recommended) menu item.
Italian mousse topped with lightly whipped cream overflows the stemmed glass. Note the chocolate syrup that gilds the mousse and cream lily. It’s a new (and recommended) menu item.

Price check: At dinner, antipasti, $9.50; soups, $3.85-$4.50 cup and $6.50-$9 bowl; salads, $6.50-$9; appetizers, $5.50; pasta, $13-$15; $1-$2 additional for lasagne or gnocchi; house specialty; entrées, $17.50- $24; dessert, $6.

3075 Araphoe Avenue, Boulder; 303-447-9572.

Il Pastaio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Panzano’s Enhanced Happy Hour Menu

New lounge look, plus new happy hour dishes and cocktails

001Panzano has put out some of Denver’s best (and best-priced) happy hour dishes for years. With a classy renovated bar, this excellent Italian eatery in Denver’s Hotel Monaco has also expanded and enhanced happy hour food and drink offerings. In short, the very good happy hour just got better.

Chef Elise Wiggins puts out sophisticated Continental specialties in what she calls “happy hour-sized portions” at happy hour prices from 2:30 to 6 p.m. every night.  Wiggins’ front-of-house ally in enhancing the happy hour experience is Derek Lovell, the new bar manager. I’m seeing this as the ideal pre-theater watering hole for the many shows with 6:30 curtains at the nearby Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The Incontrare is a cocktail combining many of my favorite ingredients: silver tequila, Campari, Salerno blood orange liqueur, lime and blood orange soda (Pellegrino, perhaps), and garnished with a slice of blood orange.
The Incontrare is a cocktail combining many of my favorite ingredients: silver tequila, Campari, Salerno blood orange liqueur, lime and blood orange soda (Pellegrino, perhaps), and garnished with a slice of blood orange.
'Ragu is agnello' is Italian for lamb ragout nested with a thick, flat pasta and crowned with mache, a flavorful lettuce from France.
‘Ragu is agnello’ is Italian for lamb ragout nested with a thick, flat pasta and crowned with mache, a flavorful lettuce from France.
Rabbit gnocchi pairs these toothsome little dumplings with tender rabbit.
Rabbit gnocchi pairs these toothsome little dumplings with tender rabbit, sweet peppers, tomatoes, herbs and tangy cheese.

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