As autumn’s cool breeze hints at winter, my attention turns to first snow, fresh powder trails, and…carbohydrates. It’s like clockwork: Every year at about this time my usually disciplined appetite shuns fruits and vegetables for pasta.
My winter diet—the devil to my angelic summer routine—consists of heaping helpings of al dente fettuccine covered in rich, creamy white sauces. Maybe the shorter days trigger a deep-seated instinct to store calories. Or maybe I just associate cold weather with comfort food. Either way, there’s no better place to satisfy my hunger than at Cafe Jordano in Lakewood.
Shortly after being seated at this 19-year-old Italian establishment, a cup of clam chowder arrives. With its smooth decadence and sense-stirring spice, I could make a meal out of the starter, but I’ve only just begun. By the time I leave, after a plate of Karma’s Favorite—tender chicken breast in a rich rosemary cream sauce with robust prosciutto, spinach, and melted cheese, served with a twist of al dente spaghetti—I’m glassy-eyed with gratification.
There are other favorites, of course, such as the tortellini alla panna, another hearty cream dish starring prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, and peas. Likewise, the gnocchi—soft potato pillows floating in savory Alfredo sauce—and the shrimp pomodoro’s jumbo prawns, swimming in fresh garlic-and-basil tomato sauce over pappardelle, are irresistible in their simplicity.
The dishes succeed because many of them hail from Naples, Italy, where owner Elisa Heitman was born and raised. Heitman brought the authentic recipes with her when she immigrated to Denver in 1979. She then worked as a waitress for a decade before scraping together enough cash to open Cafe Jordano with her second husband, Tory. They named the restaurant after their son Jordan.
Nowadays, everyone in the neighborhood knows Heitman—and 24-year-old Jordan. Welcoming diners by name, Heitman circles the dining room checking and double-checking, greeting old friends, and hugging little children. A genuine Italian hospitality, combined with the warm, inviting atmosphere of the cafe, draws a lively crowd. If you go, plan accordingly: There’s always a wait for dinner—especially when it’s cold outside. 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood, 303-988-6863, cafejordano.com.