You’ve had it before, the watery sauce, the sticky thin noodles and the sawdust cheese. With complete satisfaction you probably slurped down this easy and cheap meal on one too many occasions. It’s your go to when there’s nothing else left. But still spaghetti is almost like a good friend, it’s always around, it’ll feed you when you were hungry and it’ll even be there when you don’t have much money. Spaghetti has always been good to us, but we haven’t always been so good to spaghetti. We’ve stuck it in cans, stuffed it full of sugar and preservatives and boiled it in hot water for way too long. We’ve made it cheap and easy when it used to be refined and crafted. And we have done this to many other Italian dishes too. Ones that came here after years of perfections, only cooked using the freshest ingredients and with time and care. The majority of our Italian food knows none of that and therefore we know none of Italian food or culture. It’s all been so processed, and transformed to our American image we can’t call it by the same name. Even Chef Boyardee used to be a real Italian chef and had to change his name just so we could pronounce it! And look at him now; he is the face of the most popular canned dog food you can buy (you know you’ve thought that before). For decades we have been trying to bottle up a culture that is known as having produced one of the greatest empires in history, the most talented artists the world has ever seen and some of the best loved foods of all time. It’s about time we stop trying to mass produce everything Italian and start experiencing it for ourselves. So if you can buy a ticket to Italy do it now, because honestly nothing is like Italy except Italy. But there are definitely great some ways you can improve your Italian experiences here in Denver. So lets start from the top with food
Eat: What we know of Italian food is not authentic in the least bit. Rather Italian is probably the least processed culinary style; it was organic and local before we even knew what that was. Typically Italian chefs construct their menu’s based on what is in season and what looks the freshest. Italian food is truly all about quality ingredients and then just trying not to mess it up from there.
Chef and owner of Il Posto, Andrea Frizzi, confirmed this with me when I came to visit his restaurant on Wednesday night. He told me that the reason he came to Colorado is because we are educated about our food. We care about where it came from, who produced it and if it’s fresh. He explained to me how important it is to have customers like us for an authentic Italian restaurant to thrive. Because each day the menu changes, so there is no favorite dish that you can have each time you come in. Rather you have to trust that if it’s made with the best ingredients, you’ll be getting the best dish. And that is what they do at Il Posto. Each day they construct beautiful plates with the finest attention to detail and care. And you can tell just by how the place moves, everyone seems to be sync all motivated by their passion for the place. The atmosphere is truly inspiring and worth the visit just to watch everyone work. And not to mention the wine list (which also rotates) is one of the best I’ve ever had and is probably the most impressive aspect of the place.
Another great place for Italian food is Osteria Marco in Larimer square. This place might look intimidating from the outside with its beautiful black and white awnings and large bakery windows, but on the inside this place is somewhat of a pizza joint at heart. However I can guarantee you’ve haven’t had pizza like this unless you’ve visited Italy. Because at Osteria Marco they make their own cheese and sausages, and damn it is good! The first plate you must try is their Chef’s assortment of cheese and cured meats. It is kinda famous from what I have reading on the web and I agree with the hype. Their burrata, a homemade ricotta with fresh mozzarella stretch over it, is delicious and has the best creamy and whipped texture. You can truly tell they made it themselves because it still has this refreshing quality that only fresh diary can have. We were all fighting over who would get the last bit of it until the pizza came. The Wild Mushroom and Robiola pizza made with truffle oil was the show stopper of the night. The second it was put on the table you could smell the saltiness of the truffles and the bite of the aged cheese. It was truly one of the best pizzas I ever had, and my mouth is watering just thinking of it now. Get that or their Prosciutto pizza made with a delicious peppery arugula that started my obsession with the leafy green. I am sure whatever you get will be good here and I always have been a huge fan of the place. But make sure to get a reservation because this place fills up fast!
Do: Other than eating, there are a couple of other Italian things you can do in Denver. On the 20th of October there is going to be an Italian festival in Wheat Ridge through Sons of Italy. This polenta fest will include dancing and authentic Italian cooking with plenty of different types of polenta. Go mingle with Denver’s Italian society and maybe get a couple tips on how to live Italian in Denver.If your calendar is already packed on that day try going to a cooking class. Both Il Posto and Osteria Marco offer them for the fall season. There you can learn how to cook real spaghetti the way it was meant to be cooked. They’ll give you some simple tricks on how to cook in an Italian spirit while teaching you a signature dish as well! And trust me a good plate of spaghetti is way into many a man’s or woman’s heart. My personal recipe has swooned quite a few dinner parties…
Make: Okay so if you can’t learn from a trained Italian chef you should at least have one recipe for a fantastic red sauce under you belt. Trust me, it can work wonders if you do it right. Here is my personal recipe for arrabbiata sauce ( a spicy tomato sauce):
Start by reducing a cup of aged balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of fennel seed in a saucepan on medium for about 3 minutes. Add one small container of sliced and washed baby portabella mushrooms. Let simmer on low while you prepare the sauce.
Sauce: 1 teaspoon olive oil
15 tomatoes peeled and diced into quarters
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine
1/4 cup Worchester sauce
1.5 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large skillet sauté onion and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes.
Add in wine, sugar, basil, red pepper, tomato paste, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, black pepper and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add in mushrooms and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes.