Roberto Calcagno, along with his wife, Elizabeth, opened Mountainara Cucina Italiana, 727 Gold Hill Place South in Woodland Park, on August 19. Roberto is not new to the restaurant business.
“I started making pizza when I was 7, then studied Neapolitan pizza in Naples as an adult,” he said. “My first restaurant to own was in the UK”
Roberto is originally from Liguria, Italy, and introduced the sources to his food in 2018 with the opening of Basil & Barley Pizzeria Napoletana at 9278 Forest Bluffs View in the Highlands in Briargate.
“I closed the pizzeria in August 2021 and moved up the hill (to Woodland Park) in January,” he said.
It was not his intention to open another restaurant.
“People kept asking me to open an authentic Italian restaurant,” he said. “And when we found this place to rent, it was the perfect place.”
Although Roberto has made excellent pizzas at Basil and Barley, he won’t be serving them at his new restaurant.
“I have a very small kitchen,” he said. “I do almost everything from scratch every day. I also make some pasta, but the space in the kitchen is limited. I get most pasta from Pappardelle in Denver.
It focuses on creating great Italian and Italian-American cuisine. His passion for perfection and the use of authentic ingredients shines through. Many come from Italy. When asked for recommendations of dishes we should try, he was quick to point out a few of his favorites.
“I grew up in Liguria and trofle al pesto comes from that region and is famous all over the world,” he said. “Gnocchi with gorgonzola was also a very popular dish.”
We enjoyed both of these dishes, especially the gnocchi ($19.90). I would put this potato pasta among the best I have tasted. They were light as a feather and bathed in a memorable creamy, lightly flavored gorgonzola sauce. The Tajarinal Tartuto ($22.20) and ravioli alla zucca ($19.90) were also amazing. How can you go wrong with black truffles (tartuto) from Piedmont? The fluffy squash ravioli was also divine.
I was particularly smitten with an eggplant parmigiana starter ($21).
“I cut thick slices of eggplant and just sauté them in olive oil until the eggplant is soft and lightly browned,” he said.
No breading on the eggplant means the lovely eggplant flavor speaks for itself. It was a delicious dish served with pasta drizzled with a savory basil and tomato sauce.
“It can be a vegetarian option if you leave out the mozzarella and parmesan,” he said.
His main entree recommendation was indeed impressive, acqua passed golden, the most expensive item on the menu at $25.50.
“I get the walleye from Wisconsin,” he said. “I poach it in sea water from Spain.”
He has jars of filtered water for human consumption shipped from Spain every month or so.
Save room for dessert; the desserts. prepared by Roberto’s father, Sandro, are unique and delicious.
There are also soups and salads on the menu. There is a fine selection of wines, mostly from Italy; Italian beers; and Italian espresso. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Details: 719-687-8803, mountainara.com.
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