Imagine if you could take a weekend trip to Italy without the 12-hour plane ride and trip down the A-line? Thanks to Denver’s newest Italian restaurant Marcella’s you can. Brought to us by the same restaurant group who perfected Ocean Prime in Larimer Square, Marcella’s marries Italian classics with modern culinary flair.
Located just at 18th and Central, the outdoor patio lights your way into the modern Italian dining room. If the weather is nice, you can even dine alfresco looking out at the Denver lights or watching the fireworks during a summer Rockies game.
Drew and I visited Marcella’s shortly after they opened and we were blown away by how amazing the experience was.
While we waited for our drinks to arrive, the first surprise of the evening was how flavorful the bread and olive oil were. Instead of serving just plain oil, Marcella’s olive oil is the star of the table and seasoned in house with rosemary, crushed red pepper and imported olives.
We started the evening with a few cocktails and appetizers before diving into the entree part of the menu. As strong as it was beautiful, the Milan Manhattan is a must have for bourbon fans. With a smooth sweet yet smoky taste, the vermouth and bourbon compliment each other rather than over overpowering the other. Drew is a huge grapefruit fan and the Grapefruit Basil Fizz has the perfect blend of grapefruit flavors to create a refreshing light start to the meal.
For appetizers, the must haves are Braised Veal Meatball and Melted Pecorino Cheese. Together these two starters could be a meal in themselves. The meatball is as big as a softball and braised for 4 hours before serving making the perfect fall apart tenderness your craving. I love cheese and I could eat the Pecorino cheese once a day if I was allowed to. Seasoned with honey and served with Apples and fresh baked crostini for dipping, this is not a plate you’ll leave any morsel on at the end of your meal.
If you’re really hungry you also need to order a pizza. Or just come for the pizza during happy hour because it is AMAZING. With a traditional crust that’s both light and soft at the same time the Crispy Potato is what happens when you combine all my favorite foods (potatoes, cheese and arugula) into pizza form.
This pizza is worth breaking every New Years resolution you’ve ever made. No joke just looking at this picture makes me want to go there tomorrow.
For entrees we went with the Gnocchi Con Bolognese and the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. The Gnocchi is made fresh every day and is served with braised lamb, marinara and parmesan cheese. If you’ve never had freshly made gnocchi you need to try it because nothing else can truly compare and you’ll be so spoiled you’ll never be able to eat store-bought again.
The Spaghetti Carbonara is one of Marcella’s signature pasta dishes and is served with the yolk on top so you play with your food and mix it into the dish yourself. I’d never had Carbonara before and I’m officially a convert and will order it whenever I have the opportunity from now on. The sauce is creamy and full of flavors that really allow the house-made pasta to shine.
If it’s possible, you have to save room for dessert. We tried two things and while both were AMAZING the Cherry crustada was the winner in my book. Topped with honey vanilla gelato [because its Italian, of course you need gelato] the fresh made rustic pie was light, flaky and tasted like everything I’ve ever wanted in dessert. Even with as full as I was, I could have eaten three of the crustada and asked for another.
The best thing about this entire meal is that even though we ate way more than we probably should, I didn’t feel overly full the way most people do after indulging on pasta. With a dedication to high quality ingredients and fresh made pastas, Marcella’s is truly the perfect ode to an Italian dinner and we are officially in need of a date night back soon. Anyone in Denver wanna join?
Disclaimer: Marcella’s hosted us at the restaurant for the evening. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all thoughts an opinions are my own.