Inside trendy Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver, award-winning Panzano serves up Northern Italian fusion fare with inventive zest while maintaining a commitment to sustainability. Decorated in hues of plum, mocha and chocolate, pen and ink drawings of Italian landmarks line the walls while the windows overlook busy city streets. Best of all the food here is as artful as the decor.
The Art of Antipasti
Chef Elise Wiggins crafts unforgettable dishes like the popular Cavolini di Bruxelles, my personal favorite item on the menu. Featuring fried brussels sprouts tossed with apple cider reduction, pistachios, rosemary salt and sliced green apples, this dish embodies unbelievable layers of contrast. The light flavor of the leafy brussels sprouts offer a crispy texture and welcoming bitter bite, while caramelized pistachios gleam like hidden gems among this ambiguous-looking dish. These are all complimented by the sweet slices of green apples that provide a cold, tart and succulent finish.
Another great antipasto to try is the Fattoria Piatto, a feast layered with Italian meats and cheeses such as Prosciutto di Parma, creamy duck mousse, local goat cheese, marinated olives, grilled crostini and more deliciousness.
These flavorful dishes are best washed down with a cocktail or two, my favorite being A Perfect Pear. Sweet and fruity, it’s mixed with Grey Goose La Poire, St Germain elderflower liqueur, house-made pear syrup and a squeeze of lemon.
Primi & Secondi
Another to die for dish is the Pastiche. A creative fusion of Italian and French cuisines, this dish resembles the classic French-inspired Moroccan staple of Pastilla, (a meat pie encased in puff pastry and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar) with an Italian twist, meaning the addition of pasta and cheese. The tradition behind this dish is fascinating. Back in Italy, it was once made as a giant pie. Doves were encased inside the pie, and when a hole was cut in the crust, the doves took to the sky. Although there are no doves in today’s Pastiche, there is plenty of baked pasta layered with spicy meatballs, creamy cheese tortellini and ragu, all topped with cinnamon custard and a savory thyme crust shaped like doves.
Pan-seared sea scallops, Capesante, are another fabulous specialty. Beautiful to behold, they come stacked like little cakes upon prosciutto and grilled asparagus risotto which is soaked in a pool of bright lime-green basil leek nage (a light broth flavored with white wine, vegetables, and herbs).
Italian Inspired Dolci
The only way to conclude your feast of flavors at Panzano is to opt for an equally spectacular dessert. You can’t go wrong with the Mascarpone Cannoli. With a hint of creamy lemon filling inside a crispy honey cannoli shell with blueberry compote the color of brilliant magenta, this dish is both beautiful and exceptional.
909 17th Street at Champa
Denver, Colorado 80202