Larimer Square is the foodmecca of Denver, and I intend to dine at every restaurant there before I die. Consuming a four course meal at Osteria Marco will only make death come sooner, but that is the paradox of my quest. My friend Taum and I started with burrata ($9) and bresaola ($6), both of them made in house, served with ciabatta. The burrata was creamy and mellow, served at room temperature and just barely firm enough to hold its shape. I expected more intensity of flavor from the bresaola–the olive oil they drizzled over the burrata was more powerful. Together on a slice of toasted ciabatta they were damn good, though.
Next we had salads. I like getting a Caesar salad ($5) at a place like Osteria Marco because it’s such a limited palette to work with. Each ingredient must come forth and proclaim its quality without hesitation; there is nowhere to hide. But a key element of the Caesar has become increasingly rare: the anchovy. At many restaurants when I inquire after my salty little friend they tell me, “Oh, the dressing has anchovies in it.” Well I don’t care. I didn’t ask what the fucking dressing has in it. I like the texture and strong briny flavor of the anchovy. It doesn’t hurt to put it in your dressing, but leave it off the salad and it’s not really a Caesar-not in my book anyway. Osteria Marco’s Caesar had one lonely little anchovy filet on top, which I tried to parse out through the meal. Other than that one omission it was an excellent salad.
We split two entrees: the fig and crispy prosciutto pizza ($13), and the Sunday night special of slow roasted suckling pig ($25). Let’s just get the special out of the way first, so I can gush about the fig pizza. The slow roasted pig was pretty underwhelming. I had expected that hours of slow roasting would result in really rich flavor (like a beef brisket), but instead I got a pile of bland meat chunks. It didn’t help that it was festooned with bitter leaves and tangy goat cheese, two powerful flavors that shoved the pork around like a flabby boxer. In the appetizer, subtler flavors really worked well together and complemented each other. Not so much in the special.
The fig pizza was incredible. I couldn’t eat it without making my delectation audible. Yes, that means I was moaning, but Osteria Marco is loud enough that nobody could hear me. Probably. I plan on writing about a pizza place near my work, which I intended to declare as the best pizza in Denver (and if you want a New York style slice of pepperoni it probably is!), but this stuff was unbelievable. Pools of melting goat cheese and dollops of sweet fig puree on a bed of pecorino, sprinkled with crunchy bits of prosciutto. If your mouth isn’t watering right now there’s probably something wrong with it. Click for mouth-watering detail –>
We had gorged ourselves and we were well satisfied, but we couldn’t stop there. We had to go all the way. I wouldn’t have been satisfied if I left without exploring at least some small portion of the dessert menu. So we ordered two desserts: butterscotch bread pudding with gelato and caramel sauce ($7), and butterscotch mousse topped with dark chocolate gelato and candied bacon ($7). I was glad we ordered the bread pudding as a safety. Bread pudding is fantastic comfort food: uniform in taste and texture, predictable, and in this case fucking delicious. The bacon thing was weird and not so good. I liked it at first, but the bacon was so chewy that the first bite stretched on for a minute. Finally all of the gelato and mousse had been swallowed and I just had a mouthful of dry, fibrous bacon. Maybe it was a consequence of the candying process. Kudos for trying something new, but it was not for me.
I loved Osteria Marco, and I’ll be back again as soon as I’ve tried some of Denver’s other fine dining establishments. I still hear the fig pizza’s siren call.
- Burrata and Bresaola Appetizer: 8
- Caesar Salad: 9
- Slow Roasted Suckling Pig Special: 6
- Fig and Crispy Prosciutto Pizza: 10
- Butterscotch Bread Pudding: 9
- Mousse and Candied Bacon: 5
Total Food Score: 8