In Italian, Gattara roughly translates to crazy cat lady. The recently opened Italian American eatery — replacing Randolph’s in the Warwick Hotel — takes its name from the feline-focused maternal figure, drawing inspiration from the icon’s particular strain of hospitality. While the American variation is seen as something of a shut-in, the gattara is known as a neighborly figure who feeds strays — a charming, albeit quaint pillar of the community. As she takes care of the cats, Gattara hopes to take care of its guests.
A range of cat-related memorabilia lines the walls. A large, hand-painted mural of the restaurant’s distinctive hair-turns-into-cat logo is joined by framed art — plenty of picturesque Italian scenery, with one modish piece reading “meow or never.” While big eyes and whiskers permeate the spot’s imagery, the food revolves around a refined menu of thoughtfully-crafted modern Italian cuisine. This is no cat cafe.
The extensive dining area — 60-seats in the restaurant, 50 in the bar and an additional 80 on the patio — is everything Randolph’s wasn’t. The space is bright and elegant, inviting diners to enjoy a leisurely meal in comfort. Fully designed by Warwick president Warren Chiu, Gattara serves as a pleasant meeting space for hotel guests but was built more for the neighborhood and the Denver dining community at large. Continuing the trend in which hotel restaurants cease to be treated mostly as a functional afterthought, the spot succeeds in providing both the caliber of cuisine and pleasant vibe that should allow it to become a lasting fixture in its own right.
Chef Thomas Newsted — a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate and veteran of the Lodge at Vail and the Game Creek Club — masterfully executes several menus. The breakfast and brunch selections favor more traditional American morning fare — a la carte items include a breakfast burrito, pork cheek eggs benedict and vanilla French toast while a brunch bar ($33) comes packed with a massive spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, egg strata, waffles, french toast, home fries, oatmeal, pastries, charcuterie, juices and bottomless mimosas.
A single lunch and dinner menu is where the Italian influence becomes evident. Split across starters, soups and salads, pizzas and entrees, the list delivers the kind of blended continental cuisine that certainly draws a great deal of inspiration from Italy, but is never restricted by old-world recipes. Newsted’s CIA training in classic French technique is evident in his presentation and careful use of ingredients. The charred octopus ($11) is prepared with fregola, peperonata, garlic chip and radish then garnished with frisee.
The pizza is a particular point of pride. An Izzo stone-fire oven sits at the center of the open pizza kitchen, acting as much as a splendid centerpiece as a functional appliance. While the majority of the menu is dine-in only, the pies are available for delivery via Grubhub and Doordash. The thin crust is made with beer from Great Divide Brewery — a blend of pale ale and Yeti — which imparts the flavor a delightful funk. The elk pepperoni ($16) comes with tomato conserva, delicately sprinkled asiago and mozzarella, roasted red peppers and herbs. The funghi ($17) comes with a blend of maitake, royal trumpet, shitake, enoki and cinnamon cap mushrooms atop a bed of white wine cream sauce, fontina, garlic chili oil and herbs.
Cocktails are named after cat breeds and are even less restricted by regional style than the rest of the menu. The Bengal ($11) — a simple blend of benviolo and limoncello — is the most Italian of the original concoctions, while the list of classics features the usual suspects. The Negroni and Aperol spritz both receive proper treatment. The Sphynx ($14) is a boozy blend of Leopold’s gin, Courvoisier and Stranahan’s whiskey.
While the connection between the cats and the food can be a bit hazy, the tongue-in-cheek commitment to the theme has its charm. If patrons request that the bartender “purr them a drink,” they will receive a cocktail flight ($10) featuring three mini-cocktails of their choosing. The grand opening hosted a cat adoption, though there are no immediate plans to bring additional felines to the premises. With its motley blend of styles both in menu and decor, the place seems to deliberately eschew definition. Fortunately for Gattara, everything about the place is good enough that by the end it all starts to make sense.
Gattara is located at 1776 Grant St., Denver. It is open every day 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.