One of my favorite restaurants in Denver is Venice on 17th and Wynkoop Street in LoDo. My friend, Mario is the GM. He always has a smile and a Limoncello for me at the end of my meal. In the summer, I frequent Venice for their amazing happy hour, which runs from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm weekdays. They have a roomy patio where I can have a glass of wine with a selection of small plates and watch the sunset as the bustling crowd rushes past. Their cuisine is classic northern Italian. It is always delicious and satisfying.
We started our meal with Champagne and Vongole “Canal Grande,” Manila clams with fresh tomatoes, baby arugula, roasted garlic, served with a marinara wine sauce. I enjoyed my favorite salad, Mozzarella Caprese, made from vine ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and Mediterranean dry oregano, drizzled with Tuscan olive oil. My friend decided on Insalata di Rucola e Pomodori with baby arugula, vine ripened tomatoes, Tropea onions, buffalo mozzarella, olives and Modena balsamic dressing.
We shared a bottle of the famed Castello Banfi Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages. “Poggio all’Oro,” translated as “Hill of Gold,” is a single vineyard, 820 feet above sea level, particularly noted for its favorable microclimate, on the southern slopes of Montalcino. This wine has a gorgeous ruby red color with hints of violet. It has a lush bouquet, with black fruit and spice, complemented by tobacco, violet, and chocolate notes. On the palate, the wine is full bodied with a velvety mouthfeel and well structured with supple tannins and good acidity. It offers rich flavors of plums and cherries followed by a long finish with nuances of berries and spice. Delicious!
For my main course I decided on Anatra al Balsamico, a lovely dish of slowly roasted Petaluma duck breast stuffed with ricotta and fontina cheeses, glazed with a sweet Modena balsamic reduction sauce. It was amazingly rich and succulent. It was served with a side of creamy risotto. My friend selected the Scaloppine ai Capperi, which is veal scaloppine with capers, roasted artichokes and roasted garlic that is finished with a Pinot Grigio-lemon butter sauce.
For dessert we shared the incredibly decadent Mousse al Cioccolato with fresh raspberries and pistachio gelato. He sipped on Galliano and I finished with rich, earthy espresso.
Some of my other favorite dishes include the Risotto all’ Aragosta e Fragole made from
imported Italian rice, chunks of lobster, fresh strawberries and a creamy lobster sauce; the Pappardelle alla Veneziana made from wide pasta ribbons with prawns, clams, mussels, scallops, fresh tomatoes and finished with a light marinara sauce; and lastly, when I am looking for something light I choose Carpaccio dei “Sospiri” a thinly sliced filet mignon with baby artichokes, micro greens, capers, and shaved grana dressed with a light mustard-lemon dressing.
A few of the delectable entrées that appear as small plates on the extensive happy hour menu include Cappellacci di Zucca, a hat- shaped ravioli filled with butternut squash, walnuts & parmesan cheese with marinara sauce and sage& brown butter; Gnocchi alla Caprese, a dish of potato dumplings, fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese; and Calamaretti Fritti al Pesto, which is flash-fried baby squid; served with a spicy marinara sauce and basil pesto.
Venice makes the most beautiful, traditional Italian desserts. I love Torta al Limone, a short paste dough filled with a lemon pastry cream, garnished with pine nuts and almonds and served with hazelnut gelato. The classic Tiramisu made with ladyfingers soaked in espresso and layered with mascarpone, cream and chocolate chips is fantastic. The Profiteroles al Cioccolato Bianco are filled with chantilly cream and covered with a white chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings.
A trip to Venice is always worth it, even if it is only for one evening!