The Best Dinner You’ll Have in Denver: The Cicchetti Bar at Sarto’s

[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-exclamation-sign” type=”color-border” border=”#2bdda9″ color=”#000000″]UPDATE: Chef Brian Laird is no longer at Sarto’s, and I’m not sure about the fate of the cicchetti bar without him. So unfortunately, the following dinner experience may no longer be an option.[/gdlr_notification]

Some dining experiences just stand out. They make you want to come back again and again, even having tried hundreds of other great restaurants. Eating at the cicchetti bar at Sarto’s is one of those experiences.

Sarto’s is a modern Italian restaurant that opened this last fall in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, and if you go there, make sure you make a reservation at the cichetti bar, which is essentialy like a chef’s table. Award-winning Executive Chef Brian Laird prepares a multi-course meal of Italian small plates right in front of you, tailored to your tastes and mood. It’s an off-menu experience that I would say is unrivaled in Denver (and yes, I know that’s a bold statement).

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar

The word “cicchetti” is obviously Italian (Venetian to be specific), and it refers to the small appetizer-size dishes typically served in traditional cicchetti bars in Venice, Italy. It’s kind of like Spanish tapas, except in Italy, people usually socialize and hang around the bar, eating cicchetti standing up — like passed hors d’oeuvres. Anyway, let’s get to the photos of food!

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Our Amazing 11-Course Dinner

These photos are really just for you to get an idea of how amazing this meal can be. Depending on the night and your personal preferences, you’ll probably get something entirely different.

Course 1: Sweet peppers stuffed with a tonnato sauce (mayo-based sauce flavored with tuna)

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 1

Course 2: Oysters with amazing things on top, including rosemary caviar

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 2

Course 3: Crostini with cheeses

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 3

Course 4 (my personal favorite): Mushroom tart wrapped in speck (a type of prosciutto) with salsify (a root vegetable) and a creamy parmesan sauce

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 4

Course 5: Gnudi ravioli (the insides of the rav without the pasta covering) with a mini salad, sage, and butter

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 5

Course 6: Pasta in a slightly spicy puttanesca sauce with juicy yellow peppers

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 6

Course 7: Acquerello risotto with asparagus, tomatoes, and peas

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 7

Course 8: Pork medallion with a curry potato puree and fava beans

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 8

So technically this wasn’t the 9th course. This was something we noticed on the appetizer menu: “chicken and waffles” made with sweetbreads. And it was the last day the sweetbreads were going to be on the menu, so naturally I had to order some. Now these are my kind of chicken and waffles.

Sarto's chef's chicken and waffles with sweetbreads

The Real Course 9 / Phase 1 of Dessert: Ice cream with pistachio dust and some sides

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 9

Course 10 / Phase 2 of Dessert: Bread pudding

Sarto's chef's cicchetti bar course 10

Course 11 / Phase 3 of Dessert: So at this point I’d put my camera away thinking we were done. Except I’d mentioned that I’m not too big on sweets and tend to eat cheese for dessert at home, so we all got little platters of cheeses. Which I promptly ate before taking a photo. Sorry I’m not sorry.

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I’ll leave you with this photo of the awesome salami contraption (because I can). Somehow I convinced the chef to cut me an extra slice of salami here and there. Because look at it.

Sarto's salami

Oh, and there are tons of amazing Italian wine options. Duh.

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