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Marcella’s Adds Fantastic New Dishes to the Menu, Including a Pork Osso Buco

Marcella’s in LoHi has quickly become my favorite Italian place in Denver since it opened last fall. It’s just the best mix of being hip, bright, friendly, delicious, well-located, and affordable. If nothing else, you have to come for the 4-6:30 M-F happy hour where almost the entire menu is 50% off. That includes the cocktails, beer, most wines, appetizers, meats/cheeses,  soups/salads, pizzas, and more. Basically everything but the entrees and super expensive wines! (But if you’re interested in the super expensive Italian wines, this is a great place to try them by the glass, when most places only let you do it by the bottle.)

I recently got the chance to try the new additions to their menu, and I highly recommend you try them, too! Without further ado… the new stuff:

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any amount of time, you’ve probably tried 1,000 renditions of a brussel sprout dish. In my opinion, Panzano and Marcella’s have the best ones. These come with apples, almonds, ricotta, and grainy mustard. The mustard is a new addition to the dish I haven’t had anywhere else — and I’m a sucker for spice and vinegar. The only thing that could make these better would be bacon.

Another new antipasti (appetizer) is the Spicy N’Duja — which is a paté sausage mixed with orzo, corn, and broccolini. And no, if you haven’t heard of this before, you’re not weird. I haven’t either. Honestly, I wished this was meatier and spicier. Apparently one person complained about the spiciness level and ruined it for the rest of us 😉

Sorry to interrupt the scheduled programming of “new dishes” here — but this oldie, but goodie, deserves a special mention. Don’t ever leave Marcella’s without getting the Melted Pecorino Cheese with crostini, apple, and truffle honey. (It’s also on happy hour for 50% off.)

So full disclosure: I don’t usually eat a lot of cooked fish. I’m more of a sushi fan — or a crab/crawfish fan. But this new fish entree is pretty fantastic. It’s the Barramundi with farro, broccolini, fennel, and lemon caper vinigrette. As far as Italian fish dishes go, this is definitely at the top of my list.

This is the new Chianti Braised Short Rib with radiatore pasta, capers, and horseradish. If you’re a short rib fan, you won’t be disappointed by these. They’re juicy and just-fatty-enough and tender and flavorful and all those other amazing adjectives.

Now for my favorite item of the night: the Pork Osso Buco with brussels, carrots, polenta, and sweet garlic. If you don’t know what Osso Buco is,  you need to go eat as much of it as possible — immediately. Traditionally, it’s a Milanese speciality of cross-cut veal shanks slow-braised until they’re so tender they just fall apart, and paired with some sort of vegetables. It’s an awesome meal to make at home if you have the time. There’s also a pretty fantastic pre-made boxed version of these at Costco. But nothing beats an expert restaurant preparation. I’ve never had a pork rendition before — but holy crap, was this amazing. Honestly, if nothing else on the entree menu — try this. And I am also willing to throw all the money at Marcella’s in the future if they will do the traditional veal version of these, because now I’m convinced they know what they’re doing. (The reason they’re not doing veal is because they’re trying to lower the consumer price point.) Also on the seasonal menu, the ricotta cheesecake with an almond crust, strawberry sauce, and real strawberries. If you’ve never had it, ricotta cheesecake is an amazing cheesecake.

This is on the regular menu, but the Profiteroles dessert just needs a mention. Pistachio, chocolate, and vanilla gelato — with warm chocolate ganache. Like sex on a plate. I’ll leave you with that.

 

The New Marcella’s Restaurant in LoHi May Just Be Your New Favorite Italian Restaurant

The other day, I got a chance to check out Marcella’s Ristorante, Pizzeria and Wine Bar that just opened on Central Street in LoHi (right down the road from Prost Brewery, with a beautiful patio facing downtown). And I have to say, this just might be my new go-to for Italian food — so if you’re a fan of Italian, you’ve got to check it out. It’s the perfect balance between some of the fancier, dimly-lit Italian restaurants around town — and the slightly-kitchy family style Italian chains. Marcella’s has a fun, lively, vibrant atmosphere that’s the perfect mix of traditional Italian with modern, trendy Colorado — making it ideal for a happy hour with coworkers, a casual date, or dinner with the family. And the food is just soooooo good!

Some timing details: The restaurant is open Monday-Thursday 4-10pm; Friday from 4pm to midnight; Saturday and Sunday for brunch 10am-3pm; Saturday for dinner from 4pm to midnight; and Sunday for dinner 4-10pm. Happy hour is Monday-Friday 4-6pm and includes 50% off many of the drink and food options from the regular menu! That’s an amazing deal if you’re a happy hour fiend like me!

I decided to try one of the specialty cocktails, the Grapefruit Basil Fizz (Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Italian basil, hand squeezed lemon)  — and was very impressed. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other cocktail options and seeing how they evolve their cocktail menu.

Now for the aforementioned delicious food! The #1 must-try is the Braised Veal Meatball with a simple tomato sauce. It’s bigger than the size of my fist — and it’s so incredibly flavorful that I’m salivating just thinking about it again. It’s not like any other meatball I’ve ever had: it’s not densely packed together like most meatballs I’ve tried, but literally falls apart as you touch it and melts in your mouth. I know I’m getting this again during happy hour when I come back! (The 1st photo below is mine, but the 2nd was borrowed from Marcella’s, since I think the day lighting does it much more justice.)

Next on my list of favorites are the parmesan crusted onions from Marcella’s brick oven. It’s not something I would have thought to order if they hadn’t suggested it — but I’m so glad I did. I loved this with the meatball, but they’d make a great sharing plate on their own, or a side for something else. That sharp parmesan flavor is just perfect with the slightly sweet caramelized onions.

Another highly-recommended appetizer is the melted Pecorino cheese imported from a Tuscan farm in Italy — with crostini, apple, and truffle honey. I mean, how can you go wrong with melted cheese?!

Alright, now for some main dishes. We decided to go with the chef/house recommendations for the table, and we weren’t disappointed. They were all traditional Italian dishes that were just perfectly executed and full of flavor — and exactly what you’d want from an Italian restaurant. This is the Chicken Parmesan, a classic:

My personal favorite was probably the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with crispy pancetta and a whole egg yolk (I took the photo after I broke the yolk and swirled it around — woops). It’s just so creamy, and the salty pancetta is the perfect addition, especially for a carnivore like me!

My husband would probably say his favorite was the Gnocchi con Bolognese. It’s not what you typically imagine “bolognese” to be — since it’s made with big chunks of braised lamb. So if you’re a lamb fan like my husband, this dish is perfect for you!

You’d think we’d be way too full to eat anything by now — but thankfully we didn’t finish our entrees and took them to go, so we could leave room for dessert. And the desserts here are awesome. This is the chocolate almond cake, and I’d eat it again anytime. It’s not overpoweringly almond-flavored, but just enough to give it that unique flavor.

And we all agreed the Cannolis here were the best we’ve had outside of Italy. You may think you’ve tried a cannoli elsewhere in Denver, but these will redefine what you think of as cannolis.