During our recent stay in Denver during the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, we were in a quandary as to where to go for dinner one evening. Our guy who handles Denver, Jon, is completely clueless when it comes to the better restaurants in the area. It was up to our boss, Daniel, to do some detective work as to where to go for dinner that particular evening. He was told by an editor of Stereophile magazine that a great little Italian place - Chianti Ristorante - wasn't far from the show site. In fact, he was going there that night for dinner with a group of industry people. Daniel made reservations for us and we went there that evening.
It turns out that Chianti Ristorante is the sister restaurant to the wonderful Venice Ristorante (pronounced "ven-EE-chay") that we ate at in downtown Denver last year during the CEDIA Expo. In fact, it was the first of three restaurants that Alessandro Carollo (right) has opened in the Denver area. Chianti is small, cozy and very quaint. The Venice Ristorante locations are larger and more lively. Once I figured out that this was one of Carollo's restaurants, I knew we were in for a great meal.
Chianti Ristorante is located in a strip mall in suburban Greenwood Village, not far from our hotel (see map). It's sort of hidden and if you didn't know it was there, you would have a hard time finding it. Thank God we had my GPS with us or we would have been in trouble.
We had six people in our group that evening. Bob Hodas, who is one of the recording industry's foremost acoustics engineers and studio designers - and who has been a large help in the marketing of the Focal professional loudspeakers - came along with us. Bob is a very unassuming guy, not someone that you'd think who would have such an even temperament working as a sound engineer with some big names in the music world and helping design and tune some of the more famous recording studios. Bob has worked with such diverse acts as The Doobie Brothers, Rick James and The Village People. He's an interesting cat.
As I said earlier, the interior of Chianti was elegant, yet subdued. The lights were turned down and it had a very cozy feel to the place. There's more of an old world feel to the restaurant than the Venice location downtown.
We were given our menus and I found that they featured a lot of the same items that we had a year earlier at Venice. They offered so many good and tempting items. I wasn't going to get a big plate of pasta, but some of the other entrees were eye-catching.
Chianti's wine list was long and impressive. My colleague, Ian, ordered up a wonderful Italian red that our waitress - who was of Spanish and Italian descent - brought to our table. The only problem was that the wine was overly chilled. Much too cold to drink even after letting it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. It turned out that the wine cellar's thermostat was faulty. It's set to be a constant 55 degrees with 55 percent humidity, but somehow it had gone haywire and the temperature of the cellar was well into the 30's. It would have been great if there were tons of beer in the cellar, but it was making the wine - especially the reds - way too cold.
The manager came over and apologized for the cold wine and said, "But thank you so much for pointing this out to us. We certainly didn't know and the refrigeration unit could have been running all night." But he certainly didn't comp us on the two bottles that we had on the table. That's OK, they warmed up in time.
When it came time to order our food, I was torn between many items. I ended up getting the veal scallopine with a lemon sauce, topped with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and capers. Looking back to my visit at Venice last year, I had gotten the veal scallopine with roasted garlic and artichoke hearts. This year, like last, I got a side of fettuccine alfredo. And as a start, I got their caprese salad with big slices of beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The tomatoes were ripe and fresh, as was the basil they sprinkled over the mozzarella. It was excellent.
Did I mention that our waitress was just excellent, as well? It wasn't overly busy in the restaurant and she was very attentive to our needs. She had young guys continually pouring water into our half-full glasses. She made some very good suggestions for entrees. She was on top of her game. And she was damn good looking, too. Spanish and Italian parents? Give me a break! She was gorgeous.
Our entrees showed up and I have to say the portions they served at Chianti were very generous. I had three very good sized veal slices on my plate. The lemon sauce was just wonderful and the artichoke hearts, mushrooms and capers were just outstanding. I had a couple bites of my fettuccine alfredo side and it was excellent. But, God, was it rich! I'm glad I got it as a side and not as a full meal.
Bob Hodas was seated across from me. Bob lives in a suburb of San Francisco and he and his wife have access to a number of great Italian restaurants throughout the Bay Area. Bob had the seafood pasta special that night - shrimp, scallops, white fish and clams in a light cream herb and garlic sauce over a bed of wide noodle pasta. He was beside himself. "This is unbelievable," he kept saying. "We have some great Italian places in the Bay Area, but this is just outstanding."
Bob thought so much of Chianti Ristorante that he went there not only the next night with a group of people, but again on a THIRD night with another group. He told me on Sunday before we left, "I know that sounds weird with all the choices in Denver, but I have to tell you - that place was just outstanding!"
Yeah, Bob! You said that the other night!
And Chianti Ristorante was outstanding. The food, the service, the atmosphere, the wine selection - all of it was very, very good. We tried to get back in on Sunday night as our last meal while in Denver, but they're closed on Sundays. We were all pretty bummed that we couldn't get back to Chianti one last time. But they'll have the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest again in Denver and hopefully I'll be back again to work the event. And I can almost guarantee you that we'll be back at Chianti Ristorante.