On October 24, The Ponti opened inside The Denver Art Museum’s newly opened Martin Building. Helmed by one of the city’s real titans of cuisine Jennifer Jasinski — James Beard Award-winning owner of Rioja, Stoic and Genuine and Ultreia — the restaurant is a temple of all things tasteful and an appropriate dining destination fit for donors, designers, dilettantes and day-trippers. Named after Italian architect and original Martin Building designer Gio Ponti, the 90-seat dining room is joined by the more casual Cafe Gio, which is better suited to those on the go.
The menu, executed by chef de cuisine Ben Love, has been carefully crafted around food that is both nutritious and energizing without sacrificing the sumptuous. Lunchtime staples — bowls, salads, pastas and sandwiches — all arrive almost as eyecatching as anything found on the walls, with ancient grains, heirloom legumes and housemade pastas never missing a slew of vivid, albeit delicate adornments. Jasinski’s touch is evident throughout, with stunning execution and apparent simplicity matching flavors to the elevated aesthetics. This is mid-day fare fit for art lovers, gorgeous in its own right but clearly composed to harmonize with the adjacent delights. It’s thoughtful without being obtuse, as cosmopolitan in ideation as it is local in implementation.
Despite being light, the food is by no means delicate. The blended burger ($18) is perfectly hefty, with a mixed patty of Buckner Family Farms beef and crimini and porcini mushrooms being loaded with gruyere, confit tomato and arugula atop a lightly-blackened brioche bun. The tempeh reuben ($17) could endear even the most hardened Katz’s fan, with the corned tempeh and Rebel Bakery marble rye lending to a dish that is anything but a vegetarian-friendly stand-in. Regardless of the hour, the coconut sticky rice ($9) is a must. The forbidden rice, mango, young coconut and tapioca combine for a masterclass in textural charm, packing the kind of dainty sweetness that will subtly enliven an afternoon of contemplation. Many desserts are meant to decelerate an evening, the sticky rice is all pep.
Jasinski’s presence as consulting chef has indeed made The Ponti a standalone achievement, and yet another gem in the chef’s ever-imaginative oeuvre.
The Ponti is located inside the Denver Art Museum at 100 West 14th Ave., Denver. It is open Wednesday – Monday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. It is open from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesday for its one weekly dinner service.