Back on Top: Telluride’s Allred’s Restaurant

Perched high above Telluride, Allred’s Restaurant once again delivers a dining experience worthy of its spectacular setting.

Back in 2001, when it was heralded as one of the “Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine, Allred’s Restaurant emerged as the town of Telluride’s flagship dining experience. The bona fides? An elegant, exclusive atmosphere and an unparalleled view—at 10,551 feet above sea level, Allred’s can only be accessed by a free five-minute gondola ride from both Telluride and the Mountain Village.

But word among local epicures was that Allred’s eventually slipped into mediocrity. So it’s worth noting that, in recent years, Allred’s has returned to prominence on the fine dining scene. The credit goes to executive chef Mike Regrut and his culinary touch, while general manager Mario Petillo ramps it up with his wonderful personality and care, making patrons feel welcome as members of his own family.

Petillo, 66, was born into the restaurant business in his native Italy. “I’ve been doing this for 54 years, through hotel school in Europe, working on a cruise ship, running restaurants in Orange County,” he says. “The owner of the ski resort convinced me to come up here in 2011, and I doubled the business in three years.

“This isn’t a job for me—this is a mission, my profession. I love what I do. I don’t work a minute of my life.”

Super Mario: GM Petillo is Allred’s majordomo

Allred’s amazing ambience helps him stay in a voluble mood. If you’re lucky, you can occupy a table at the full-length picture windows to watch the aspen glow at sunset and the lights of Telluride turn on more than a thousand feet below.

Regrut and his staff offer creative, seasonally changing contemporary American cuisine, encompassing ingredients and techniques from around the world—and meeting the challenges of turning out innovative, impeccably prepared food at a unique mountaintop eatery.

“In the summertime, we have pickups scheduled on the service roads,” Petillo explains. “In the winter, we have a snowcat. There’s only one problem that the delivery causes—sometimes during the trip, our delicate items, like watercress, arrive frozen!”

It’s a rare pleasure to work through the Allred’s menu. For starters, it’s hard to pass on the lobster bisque (cognac cream and shaved chives), but the lemongrass-shirmp bisque is a mellow alternative, the lemongrass awakening the shrimp flavor. Everyone on the staff recommended the potato croutons. Think “tater tots for a sophisticated palate“—shaved potato and Parmesan, stacked and baked and then deep-fried, garnished with chives and truffle aioli.

Tops of the Tots: Parmesan shavings and truffle aoli elevates the potato croutons.

Featured entrées range from a scrumptious miso-marinated black cod to a roasted chicken from Boulder Farms. I’ve experienced the latter in several iterations, from New Mexican style (served with roasted tomatillo, hominy, Hatch green chiles and duck confit) to a presentation of braised winter greens, porcini-parmesan tortellini and grana padano cheese.

Elk appears on the menu in various configurations, from carpaccio to a medallions plate. A bourbon marinated elk strip loin is cooked to tender medium-rare perfection, its inherent flavor enhanced by fingerling potatoes, bing cherry chutney, broccolini and a juniper demi-glace.

But the certifiable treat is the sustainable-sourced lamb.

“People ask me, ‘What’s your signature dish?’” Petillo notes. “My menu doesn’t have one—psychologically, it means that the rest of the menu is second rate. But our Colorado lamb is the best I’ve ever served. Grass fed, natural lamb that you can only get locally.”

The succulent flavor and texture is incredible. On one recent visit, the rack of lamb was crusted in panko crumbs and served with a “stew” of gigandes (the “giant” beans from Greece) and spicy, earthy Merguez-style sausage; on another, with buttery, bright-green castelvetrano olives, a warm tomato-eggplant jam and a goat cheese foam.

Of course, the desserts are outrageously rich and indulgent; my favorite is the warm sticky toffee pudding cake, served with a dollop of vanilla-whipped cream, Meyer’s rum toffee sauce and a crisp, buttery almond tuile. Allred’s has a beautiful, voluminous wine selection by the glass and the bottle (the restaurant is recognized as a Wine Spectator Award Winner); I’m always a sucker for the 2010 Tyler, a fresh Pinot Noir utilizing grapes from Bien Nacido Vineyards (“good birth”) in Santa Barbara County.

Allred’s cozy bar features handcrafted cocktails and lighter fare, plus a chance to enjoy the stylings of the house pianist. Whether it’s an après-ski nosh and appetizers or a formal dinner, Petillo truly cares that you enjoy your meal.

“The challenge is personnel,” he admits. “In a big cities like New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, you encounter professional waiters. In a ski resort, we operate mainly with seasonal workers—they come in summertime to mountain bike or hike; in winter they want to ski. They want a job to pay their expenses. It took me four years to install a little bit of passion, the beauty of this profession. We have the opportunity to mingle with people who we normally would never meet. For example, I made good friends with the late Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon and a real gentleman…”

I note that Allred’s servers have been friendly and organized during my visits.

“I made them an Italian offer,” Petillo smiles. “The one they can’t refuse.”

St. Sophia Gondola Station; 970-728-7474;

Alpine Elegance: Allred’s exqusite dining room

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