Dining

Rustico Ristorante

Authentic Italian in Telluride.

By
June 2008

It's 9:30 on a Friday night and I've just finished a plate of sausage risotto, accidentally ordered a second bottle of wine (it's a half-bottle, if you must know), and I think I'm in love with my three servers.

For the last two hours, they've helped two of us expertly navigate Rustico's 75-dish menu. They told us we would love the carpaccio di vitello e aragosta ($14.50), thin strips of raw veal tenderloin and earthy truffle oil offset by the cool sea taste of lobster. They were right.

Chef-owner Paolo Canclini, a fifth-generation restaurateur, landed in Telluride 12 years ago, aiming to create a casual restaurant that evoked the simple style and fresh flavors of the food he grew up with in the Valtellina region of the Italian Alps—and he's succeeded.

Rustico's menu draws a refreshingly mixed crowd: cyclists looking for beer and pizza at the bar, teenage locals signing for fettuccine on daddy's expense account, and investment bankers craving a $65 beef tenderloin filet from Ralph Lauren's nearby ranch. Time it just right and you might also catch a Cruise or a Spielberg or a Lucas relaxing in the restaurant's enclosed veranda, dining in the stone-walled villa room, or sipping a Sangiovese in front of the fireplace. Speaking of which, Rustico's 1,500-label wine list is 100 percent Italian and 200 percent seductive, especially the Valtellina Superiore Corte della Meridiana ($86), a deep and elegant Nebbiolo from the Conti Sertoli Solis estate.

But it's not my fault. Really. It's these darn waiters and their impossibly friendly manner who've made me want to linger at Rustico long into the Telluride night. Or at least until the wine—and the tiramisù they talked me into—are finished. 114 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride, 970-728-4046, www.rusticoristorante.com