January 10 2006, 10:00 PM
Elbow room...In recent weeks, Parisi has been busier than we've ever seen it, with lines out the door noon and night. Happily, the wait will soon abate. On February 1, owner Simone Parisi will open the Italian restaurant's newly remodeled downstairsa space that doubles the current capacity and looks like a traditional Italian "taverna" with natural stone, copper, wood, and an iron gate to the wine cellar. In addition to private seating for 26 and lighting, curtains, and fabrics straight from Florence, there's a proscuitto bar (Denver's first) where diners can grab a seat and enjoy a glass of wine, a selection of cheeses and Italian meats, and other appetizers. With the expansion, Simone hopes to take Parisi from restaurant to cultural center. In the coming months look for Italian lessons over dinner, movie screenings, World Cup events, community dinners, and wine tastings to take shape. 4401 Tennyson St., 303-561-0234. Gone but not forgotten...We missed chef Adam Mali (of the late Restaurant Kody) so much, we traveled to Aspen to taste what he's been up to. After closing the doors of his Evergreen restaurant, Mali took a job manning the burners at Ajax Tavern, a hotspot at the base of Aspen Mountain. While Kody was small and intimate, Ajax bursts at the seams and regularly does 300 to 500 lunches. But even with the high volume, Mali manages to work in a few Kody holdoversmost notably a sage-parsley-and-lemon-crusted elk loin with celery root potato gratin and Port-mission fig sauce. If we closed our eyes, we could have been inside the cozy Evergreen dining room. We can only hope that Mali will return to the Mile-High City one day soon. 685 E. Durant Ave., 970-920-9333. Shuttered...A La Tomate Bistro & Tarterie, the small French cafe on 17th Avenue, closed its doors December 1. Chef and owner Phillip Collier says although the 2-year-old bistro was breaking even, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina took its toll: "I don't think people knew what was going to happen with gas and oil prices and how it was going to affect their lives, so they stayed home. September was a very scary month for us." After rebounding in October (thanks to a favorable review in The Denver Post), sales fell again in November and Collier was looking the holidays straight in the face. "We just got very nervous, very uncomfortable financially. There were too many hats, and not enough heads." It was our hope that the opening of Parallel Seventeen a couple doors down would bring an influx of new diners to the block. "I think it would have," says Collier, "but I couldn't hold on." Even so, Collier says he'd love to give the Denver restaurant business another go. Until then, we'll miss A La Tomate's wonderfully flaky, impossibly buttery tomato tarts.