Osteria Marco

I think Osteria Marco is the best Italian restaurant in Denver. Imagine walking down a wide stairwell into what is presumably a basement dining area, only to find yourself in the middle of a true, Italian osteria. It looks like a polished wine cellar, intentional but humble.

The wine list is spectacular, especially if you know Italian wines. If not, hopefully the server can point you in the right direction (this has been, honestly, a bit hit or miss). Immediately, without hesitation, order the house made burrata. Even if this is the only item you eat all night, it will be well worth it. I have yet to find a burrata that can compare and I have tried many. The burrata is accompanied by ciabatta from the grill. If you’re with a group, a good addition is a separate order of the grilled ciabatta, which comes with a mix of pesto, tomatoes, balsamic, and parmesan.

Really, any one dish on the menu is worth trying, but I prefer the pizzas. And not just because I love pizza. The real stars of OM are the ingredients, and on the pizzas you can taste them all. The meatballs, the salami, the prosciutto, cheeses, and oils… they all stand out. Here’s a pro tip: soak up some of the hot olive oil that will be on your table with your pizza crust.

Osteria Marco is unique. You feel comfortable, casual, sitting with friends or family and enjoying good food and good wine. But you also walk away sure that you just had one of the best meals available downtown.

I suggest: Burrata, Grilled Ciabatta Bread, Pizza Carne. For wine, go rogue: an Aglianaco del sud.

Osteria Marco1453 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

Menomalé: simply a must

Of all the food in the world, pizza is one of the most simple. We see it presented by the face of Peyton Manning and bubbling with cheese-stuffed crust laden with fruit, but in reality, it is best when made with a handful of quality ingredients. In Italy, pizza is an art form. Pizzaioli know that to make a perfect pizza is a serious study. In Italy, this is common, but to find a true Neapolitan pizza here in the US isn’t easy. I think that Menomalé of DC is the best I’ve had this side of the Atlantic.

Everything about Menomalé is true Italian: the tiny water glasses (no room for ice), the limited seating, and, of course, the wood-fired oven. Go to Menomalé and take some time to enjoy the experience. Their select beers are all great pairings with pizza and they also boast a decent wine selection. Their antipasti platters are standard – meats, cheeses, breads – and you can tell that everything is hand-picked to resemble Italy’s finest. Share the antipasti, enjoy a beer, order a pizza, and then imagine. I’ve spent time in Italy and I’ve made memories around the table. The pizza served by Pizzaiolo Ettore Rusciano makes me nostalgic. Served in whole on specially made plates, the perfect Neapolitan pizza, the one that can be found so effortlessly in Italy, is bursting with the flavors of tomato and mozzarella di bufala. The dough has a bit of charring, but is soft and slightly chewy. The traditional toppings, often representing more than initially considered, are the perfect after note. This is Menomalé. Maybe I’ve been away from Italy for too long, but if I close my eyes, there is no distinction.

Menomalé upholds my love affair with pizza. The whole experience is genuine: the staff is knowledgable, the atmosphere is comfortable and the ingredients embody the best of Italy.

Located in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast DC, it should not be overlooked. If you’ve been to Italy, it will take you back. If you haven’t, just don’t ask for it sliced.

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 I suggest: Affettati Misti della Casa, the Quattro Stagioni, the Diavola, Nastro Azzurro (draft), Curieux (bottle)

 Menomalé, 2711 12th St, NE, Washington, DC 20018