Undici Ristorante

I landed at Undici Ristorante on Old Hampden & Downing. Owner Alex Kallas is part of a family empire of restaurants. In Italian, “Undici” means eleven. His brothers Peter and Kosta run Steakhouse 10, and the nearby Greeks Gone Wild counts as 12. What happened to the first nine restaurants?

Alex assured me they existed, but I think it’s more impressive if they simply started in double figures. The Kallases hail from Kalamata, Greece. Why did Alex choose to open an Italian eatery? He had a talented chef to bet on—Cristian Burciaga was working for someone else when Alex told him he’d back him if he ever became available. He did. Bada-boom.

Now Undici provides a transformative neighborhood dining experience. Step inside and you’re instantly seduced by the sleek, attractive décor, the atmosphere provided by tasteful, understated art and an elegantly minimalist waterwall feature. You feel relaxed and welcome as you sit down to eat gourmet Italian fare.

A recent lunch visit started with insalate—the Maddalena di Gambererri featured a mix of greens with shrimp and white beans, dressed with shaved parmesan. The Battuta di Pollo alla erbe aromatiche e aceto balsamico, a chicken paillard made for a perfect presentation, with the boneless, skinless breast pounded thin and grilled, then hidden under a tower of seasonal vegetables and crispy, firm polenta cakes that had been briefly fried until golden on the outside, and seasoned with herbs and balsamic vinegar.

The house pasta was Rigatoni Undici, the tube-shaped pasta wide enough to capture homemade sausage, pancetta and fresh tomatoes. The Cannelloni di Verdura e Ricotta was another winning dish, the cylinders baked with a filling of mouthwatering specialty cheeses and fresh veggies with the right cover of sauce.

For dessert, the fluffy Limoncello Cake was perfectly moist, topped with white chocolate shavings for the ideal amount of sweetness. Mamma mia! I’m now the Nigel Tufnel of foodies. “If we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Put it up to Undici.”

1200 E. Hampden Ave.; 303-761-2828; undicidenver.com

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