Perhaps there are no two eateries in Denver as disparate as Barolo Grill and Avanti Food and Beverage. The former is more than 20 years old; the latter just celebrated its first birthday. Barolo offers special-occasion, high-end Italian fare and wine; Avanti’s food hall atmosphere skews more bustling bar and strolling dinner party with seven restaurant tenants.

Chow Morso—a new project from the Barolo Grill team that’s slated to open inside Avanti this week—is where the two worlds collide. Barolo owner Ryan Fletter and chefs Darrel Truett and Don Gragg are bringing the same finessed Italian fare that Denver knows and loves to a more affordable and playful venue.

If it’s surprising that Fletter would set his sights on such a casual target, just consider what Frasca Food and Wine has accomplished with Pizzeria Locale, its ever-expanding chain of fast-casual pizzerias. Fletter wanted to extend Barolo’s reach beyond its limited dinner service hours, but he knew that he didn’t want to incorporate lunch or brunch or open a second outpost. So he looked to the Frasca-Pizzeria Locale model for inspiration.

With Chow Morso’s straightforward menu, Fletter wanted to showcase the Italian food that Barolo already excels at: house-made fresh pastas, cones of crisp fried calamari and vegetables, and a few gelati. In order to translate the Barolo experience to Avanti, just about every dish on the menu is offered in both full (chow) and half portions (morso, which means bite in Italian), which allows guests to tailor their meals. Want just a couple bites of the gnocci in mushroom-cream sauce? Go for the morso size (and save room for the polenta fries with sweet pepper Tuscan ketchup). Looking to carbo-load? Ask for the chow portion of the Bolognese-sauced taglietelle.

Really, though, you can’t go wrong with any of the items on the concise menu. The offerings are akin to a greatest hits of Barolo Grill, so every single dish has been meticulously perfected over the years. “It’s sort of a collection of our favorite things,” Fletter says.

Look for Chow Morso to open on Thursday in the corner space formerly occupied by Bixo Bites.

3200 N. Pecos St., 720-269-4778

—Photo by Rachel Adams

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.