Mangia Mangia!

Molto Italiano

How do you improve on Aspen’s already robust Italian food scene?

By Tom Passavant February 1, 2014 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

0214 molto italiano main ulil9i

Image: Anne Reeser

Acquolina ( and Zeno (, two new ristorantes emerging from the shells of previous Italian dining rooms and run by veteran local restaurateurs, are betting on authenticity.

“We’re bringing this space back to more of the spirit of Farfalla and Gusto,” says Acquolina proprietor Luigi Giordani, citing two older venues that once occupied the same space on Main Street. Out went the white tablecloths of Gisella, to be replaced by aluminum-trimmed tables, retro-hip black-and-white photos, and lively Italian music. Acquolina has an ambience you might easily encounter in Rome or Milan. Ditto the food. Reasonably priced pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches are all made with top-notch ingredients, many flown in from Italy. (Don’t miss the spectacular fresh ricotta when it lands.) A comforting square of lasagna and an arugula and mozzarella salad hit the spot at lunch recently, while lamb pappardelle and textbook tiramisu were dinner highlights. The lineup of artisan Italian beers is another unique attraction.

If Acquolina has been beamed down from the hipster-clogged streets of Rome’s Monti or Pigneto districts, Zeno channels the hearty spirit of the Tuscan countryside. Proprietors Marco Cignolani (well-known from Justice Snow’s and the Cheese Shop) and chef Andrea Menichetti, whose family runs a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Tuscany, liberated the Il Mulino space at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola by exposing the windows and removing the enormous elk chandelier. While the sleek, airy space is packed at lunch and après-ski, some of the more delicious dishes, such as the acquacotto soup, fettuccine with wild mushrooms, and cedar-planked trout with fennel gratin, play especially well at night.

Filed under
Show Comments