Picture a restaurant spectrum, if you will: On one side, there’s white-tablecloth, award-winning, fine-dining Barolo Grill and on the other, there’s fast-casual Chow Morso, the Avanti Food & Beverage Italian street food stall. Now, think of what would fit in the middle. A casual, modern spot offering Italian classics and full table service, but without a whiff of pretension? Yep! That’s just what Barolo Group owner Ryan Fletter and culinary executive director Darrel Truett have designed for their newest spot, Chow Morso Osteria.
Opening on Thursday, September 13, Chow Morso Osteria has an entirely new look and feel after a transformation of the old Squeaky Bean space. There’s a gorgeous white Carrera marble-topped bar, counter seating with a view of the pasta station, and dramatic pops of “smoked tomato” red on the walls, tables, chairs, and bar stools. A lounge area and coffee station in the front of the restaurant are meant to encourage LoDo workers and visitors to drop in for a spritz and a snack, or grab a sandwich and espresso drink to-go.
The menu aims to satisfy Denverite’s carb cravings with a wide range of handmade fresh and dried pastas (the former for eating in, the latter to cook at home), “piadina” or grilled flatbread sandwiches, and gooey cheese-filled arancini. “I originally wanted to call the restaurant Bolognese,” Fletter says, “after the off-menu dish that Barolo Grill regulars know to ask for…at Chow Morso Osteria, we’re letting classics like bolognese, carbonara, and cacio e pepe drive the bus.” Angolotti stuffed with veal in a sage-butter sauce and a wonderfully garlicky linguine with clams are also sure to please, as will the aforementioned piadina, filled with the likes of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella or grilled chicken and fontina.
For lighter appetites, Chow Morso Osteria’s salads are vibrant and fresh, and there are lovely seafood options scattered across the menu, from antipasti of salmon carpaccio or mussels in a tarragon broth to a crispy-skinned Alamosa bass entree served with tangy eggplant caponata.
“Our goal is to serve modern favorites,” Fletter says. “Simple things, which is what an osteria does so well in Italy.” That ethic translates to the beverage program as well, which features twists on Italian spritzes, drinks made with limoncello and grappa, Italian beers, and a mostly-but-not-all Italian wine list. Unlike Barolo Grill’s award-winning cellar, Chow Morso Osteria’s wine room—the former closet upon which the Squeaky Bean’s bingo board was hung—holds a mere 300-or-so excellent yet affordable bottles, which guests can admire from the dining room through a viewing window.
Desserts are equally affable, hitting all the sweet spots from chocolate cake to a delightfully wobbly vanilla panna cotta to house-made gelatos, sorbets, and biscotti. If this is what the middle tastes like, it’s a delicious place to be.
If you go: Chow Morso Osteria will be open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday; 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday; and is closed on Sunday.
1500 Wynkoop St., 720-639-4089