Eat & Drink

Imperfectly Appealing

Amerigo Delicatus, Iain Chisholm’s tiny Ballpark restaurant, serves controlled chaos—and does it well.

June 2013

Amerigo Delicatus
Restaurant & Market
2449 Larimer St.
amerigodelicatus.com
303-862-9850
2 1/2 stars

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The Draw
A casual, inexpensive Italian restaurant that serves an ever-changing lineup of high-quality, handcrafted dishes.
The Drawback
The small space fills quickly, and when it does, it takes on an air of barely managed chaos.
Don’t Miss
Goat cheese with basil pesto, house-made ricotta, linguine with Italian sausage, gnocchi, beef cheeks
Price
$$ (Average entrée $14)

Food: 3 stars
Service: 3 stars
Ambience: 2 1/2 stars

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I have a friend who entertains often, but you’d never know it. She opens the door, hair half-combed, and before saying hello she’s asking if you know how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew because even though she has about a dozen she can’t seem to find any of them. There are never enough chairs for the dining table. Dinner always takes longer than expected. And there’s always one dish, if not several, in which the seasoning is not quite right.

And yet, I’m always eager to be invited back. Even if the meal isn’t memorable, even if we eat while standing, I always feel like I’m part of something special.

Dining at Amerigo Delicatus Restaurant & Market is a lot like dining at my friend’s house. The restaurant is as inviting as it is imperfect. Meals are fulfilling but occasionally vexing. On busy nights, you’ll have to stand, awkwardly, by the door while waiting for a table that will take longer to open up than anyone predicted. But the host—Anna Chisholm, who co-owns the restaurant with her chef-husband, Iain—will look you in the eye and make you feel so welcome that no matter how hungry you are, you’ll find yourself reassuring her that the wait is no problem, no problem at all.

And you’ll mean it.

The Chisholms opened Amerigo this past August with a vision to create what Iain calls a “real” restaurant built on quality ingredients, humble dishes, and—as cliché as it sounds—family love. After several visits, I’d say they’ve largely succeeded.

Despite being located on a dark, underdeveloped stretch of north Larimer (although, not for long; the neighborhood appears to be on the cusp of explosive growth), despite its small size—just 42 cramped seats—and despite its clunky name, Amerigo has gotten the attention of the dining public. (In addition to other local accolades, the restaurant landed on our best new restaurants list in March.)

A big part of Amerigo’s draw is the nurturing, insider-y, dinner-party feeling it offers. Sure, you may have to wait for a table, but like waiting for a meal at my friend’s house, you know the host is glad you’re there. The restaurant’s casual vibe and mixed twentysomething-to-empty-nester crowd also lend a friendly, let’s-invite-all-the-neighbors feel.

Another part of the attraction: You won’t feel taken advantage of. At Amerigo, you can order several antipasto selections (say, Burrata, pulled pork, and balsamic tomatoes), a couple of salads, and two hearty entrées and, if you skip the wine, get out for less than 50 bucks. But the food isn’t typical of cheap eats. Offerings include house-made cheeses, seasonal produce, and some of the best-cooked pasta in Denver.
The menu is built around an ever-changing lineup of four entrées. Always—as a result of diner demand—you’ll find linguine made from silky fresh egg pasta and topped with a generous mound of crumbly sweet-hot Italian pork sausage. The dish is fulfilling but simple. You can taste the fennel in the sausage, smell the garlic in the sauce, detect the sweetness of the fresh tomato base—but the overall effect is one of clean, straightforward flavor. This is comfort.

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