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The largest chef's counter in the city awaits you at Cattivella. Photo by Lucy Beaugard

Cattivella Sets A High Bar

Chef Elise Wiggins offers far more than Italian fare at her new Stapleton restaurant.

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The Eastbridge Town Center in Stapleton is booming: Cattivella, Concourse, and a new Next Door outpost have all opened there in the past three weeks. And if there’s one theme that stretches across all three concepts, it’s ambition. We’ll talk about Concourse and Next Door in the near future, but for now, let’s start with the long-awaited opening of former Panzano executive chef Elise Wiggins’ Italian restaurant, Cattivella.

Cattivella
Cattivella’s ciccioli are like crunchy bacon chips. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

While the name means “naughty girl” (which fits Wiggins’ spicy personality quite well), we think a more fitting moniker would be the Italian equivalent of “chef-teacher” or “feisty party-thrower” or a combination of the two. It’s tricky picking just one when Cattivella does so many things so well.

If you have the willpower to pass by the patio with its walk-up bar, you’ll enter through Cattivella’s glass doors and receive a warm welcome. There’s a dinner-party-esque atmosphere inside, with myriad things to watch, eat, drink, and learn. And that’s just what Wiggins intended.

At the butcher’s counter, diners waiting for their tables can chat with Wiggins and her team about the dry-aged steaks on display in a little cooler or the whole pigs that come in once a week. More than likely, you’ll be treated to a little bite of something, too. Or you might be lucky enough to watch the special meat press at work as it squeezes bits of rendered pork into a fabulous street snack called ciccioli—a crunchy, salty bacon chip of sorts, served with a bright-and-spicy tomato sauce for dipping. Order it and marvel, as we did, at how the fried bits aren’t at all greasy and shatter just so.

You can belly up to the pastificio, or pasta counter, and watch cooks extrude dough into rustic, ridged tubes and flowing ribbons, and if you ask, you’ll learn the shapes’ names and the stories behind Wiggins’ experiences eating them during her many trips across Italy. Even without that insider knowledge, the pastas are divine.

The largest chef’s counter in the city also awaits, so you can dine and drink while watching Wiggins’ and her team grill, sear, toss, and sauce your meal. Everything is on display, from the pizzaiolo slinging thin-crusted, wood-fire pizzas (the seasonal grilled asparagus and prosciutto pie is a must-order) to Wiggins plating fluffy potato gnocchi to a cook kept busy with her mandolin, shaving paper-thin slices of fennel, apple, and celery for a refreshing salad. And the lone television screen set high above the counter is there solely to show guests in other parts of the restaurant what’s cooking on the wood-fire grill.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Wiggins is continuing the Italian cooking classes that were so popular at Panzano. For $65–$125, you can spend a Saturday afternoon at the chef’s counter while Wiggins’ demonstrates making her Neapolitan pies (May 27, $65), cooking seafood over the wood grill (June 3, $125), or creating fresh ricotta or mozzarella (July 1, $75). Ample tastings are a part of the deal, as well as take-home copies of Wiggins’ recipes.

10195 E. 29th Drive, Suite 110, 303-645-3779

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