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A South Indian Colorado lamb shank feast at Namkeen, operating out of Spuntino in Highland. Photo courtesy of Namkeen/Spuntino
Eat and Drink

Namkeen Is Spuntino’s New Ghost Kitchen

Owners of the beloved Italian spot in Highland reincarnate their South Indian restaurant with a full to-go menu—and a family-style feast for al fresco dining, too.

Cindhura Reddy, the chef and co-owner of Spuntino on West 32nd Avenue in Highland, grew up in Cleveland, where South Indian food was always on her family’s table. “My parents moved here from Hyderabad [now in Telangana, formerly Andhra Pradesh] when they were in their 20s,” she says, “and when I was growing up, we sponsored a couple of aunts and uncles that would come live with us. Cooking was a full family endeavor.” 

In 2018, Reddy and co-owner/husband Elliot Strathmann channeled her talents and family recipes toward recreating the dishes of her childhood at Namkeen (pronounced num-kin), which held a stall at Zeppelin Station in RiNo. The flavors and textures in the food on Namkeen’s menu were explosive, exciting, and executed with care; it was impossible not to crave Reddy’s spicy, tangy fried chicken 65 and warm roti. Sadly, the stall closed in early 2019. 

Fast forward to a global pandemic: Spuntino’s crew has weathered the storm of 2020 with grace and resilience, building an entirely al fresco restaurant on the tented patio they created in their side parking lot. They’ve hosted Namkeen pop-ups, established an in-house delivery service (if you’re lucky enough to live within three miles of the restaurant), and kept their staff employed and at full benefits. Have they slept? Not much. And they aren’t going to start now, as Reddy and her kitchen team, which includes young gun chef de cuisine Austin Nickel, release a bold new culinary plan for winter 2020.

A glimpse through the entryway into Spuntino’s heated, tented dining area. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

As of today through spring 2021, Spuntino will offer a full Namkeen takeout menu, available for curbside pickup or neighborhood delivery, as well as a family-style South Indian feast for two people which you can take home or eat on its patio. “I’m excited to bring back the mission of Namkeen and what we had originally set out to do,” Reddy says, “which is to provide thoughtful home-cooked Indian food with responsible sourcing of proteins and produce. I think it lends itself so easily to take out, and in a world where we want to encourage take out as much as possible, it seemed like a natural next step for us.”

Spuntino’s current Italian menu will shrink a bit, but fan favorites including arancini and pappardelle with El Regalo Ranch goat bolognese will remain on the roster, as will access to Strathmann’s masterful homemade amari and producer-driven wine list. 

The abbreviated Italian offerings will allow more prep time to go to Namkeen’s dishes, which range from snacks like samosas and gobi (cauliflower) 65 to Reddy’s childhood favorite chana masala and methi chicken curry. The two-person South Indian meal will change every month, but don’t let the first iteration pass you by; it’s a glorious dinner that includes tender potato-filled samosas with raita and two chutneys, cumin basmati rice, and falling-off-the-bone braised Colorado lamb shank with Reddy’s roti and tangy tomato pickle. Scooping up bits of the spicy, juicy lamb and rice with a piece of roti and dipping the bundle into Reddy’s rich, umami-bomb tomato pickle is a treat you don’t want to miss. (Strathmann recommends drinking Foradori’s lightly extracted Lezér Teroldego, produced by the son of owner Elisabetta Foradori, with the lamb, and, of course, he’s right.)

If all goes well with the new Spuntino-Namkeen hybrid, Strathmann says that they’re planning to expand the restaurant’s delivery radius a bit. For now, east siders can only hope—and order that curbside carryout. 

Spuntino, 2639 W. 32nd Ave, 303-433-0949

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