Reviews

The Restaurant Show with Warren Byrne

Reviewed on: March 6, 2009
Thornton and Northglenn have never been known for an abundance of quality restaurants. Searching for a rich dining experience, the people in that part of town have pretty much been forced to drive south to Denver, west to Boulder, or north to Longmont. But suddenly, what used to be mile after mile of open range north of 120th,is now chockablock with housing developments. Housing means people, and people means retail outlets and restaurants. So, there, smack dab in the middle of nowhere at the 144th Avenue exit from I-25 is the Orchard Town Center. Right now, virtually all of the restaurants there are chains, but amongst all the sameness, we found a glimmer of hope this week at Asti d’Italia. At this writing, the restaurant has been open less than two weeks but, already, I’ve gotten emails and calls from listeners excited to find a restaurant of this quality in their backyard. From the outside, Asti d’Italia comes across as a simple storefront restaurant, but step over the threshold and you’ll find a delightfully warm room with soft lighting, and a decidedly European feel. Cloth linens, candles on the tables, and a comfy lounge area complete the feel of an intimate restaurant somewhere in the Tuscan countryside. Asti d’Italia is the creation of Charles Stanford and Chef Greg Keesy, who worked together before at the Full Moon Grill in Boulder, that later became Alba, so they’re no strangers to each other or to the Italian fine dining arena. And, while the menu is simple and straightforward, it’s more than adequate, providing something for everyone. Appetizers include steamed mussels in a tomato cream sauce and crispy polenta, as well as a traditional antipasti with assorted meats, cheeses and olives. The crab cakes came as three silver-dollar sized treats with a delightful taste of the sea enhanced by Keesy’s use of a scallop reduction to bind the whole thing together. A side of tangy remoulade provides a nice dash of flavor to the dish. There are a handful of pasta and risotto dishes, including Penne with Italian Sausage, and Linguine with Lobster. These can be enjoyed as entrees, or ordered in half portions if one prefers a smaller pasta course before the main dish. In fact, we did order the Potato Gnocchi as an entrée, and were delighted to find that Chef Keesy makes his own gnocchi, a rarity these days. It came with a super flavorful truffled Madeira sauce with duck confit, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. In fact, if there was one word that could be used to describe his dishes, it would have to be “intense,” a fact that was apparent again with his Roasted Duck Breast, cooked to temperature, sliced, and served over a bed of sinfully rich, creamy polenta, and an intense (there’s that word again) raspberry sauce. As wonderful as the food is, and as “adult” as the atmosphere is, we were amazed at the number of families dining with small children–further testimony to the need for a restaurant of this quality in the north part of town. Prices are average, with a few dishes in the low teens, then moving into the twenties. Parking is plentiful.

YellowScene Magazine - by Lacy Boggs

Reviewed: October 2009
Inspiring Italian – In an unexpected place
It used to be that “mall food” was about the lowest insult you could sling at a restaurant. Mall food was synonymous with a food court, a wasteland consisting mostly of soft-serve ice cream, pizza slices as big as your head and corn dogs on a stick. People seeking healthy fare counted themselves lucky to find a storefront dishing out scoops of greasy beef with broccoli. But then, mall food began to change. I suspect it began with national chains like California Pizza Kitchen and P.F. Changs, which started bringing the sit-down restaurant into the mall. A friend from Texas came to visit me when I lived in California a few years ago, and our dinner plans took us to a mall. She couldn’t believe that we were going to the mall to eat, but truly, it was one of the nicest restaurants in Orange County. The trend is most evident at new outdoor mall developments like Stapleton and The Orchard in Westminster, which is where my husband and I found ourselves at a friendly Italian bistro and wine bar called Asti D’Italia. Located on a prime corner, Asti D’Italia only feels like a mall restaurant when you realize you’re sitting 50 feet from a JCPenney. The atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable, with warm, dark tones, a full bar and an attractive wine room. And the food, well, it was impossible to even compare it to anything we’d ever sampled at a food court. We attacked our antipasto appetizer plate with gusto, enjoying a nicely arranged selection of olives and marinated vegetables, imported meats and cheeses as we sipped each of the wines in the flights we’d chosen for the evening. Owner Charles Stanford has worked in the restaurant industry most of his life, as server, manager, sommelier and now owner. Chef Greg Keesy brings a Boulder pedigree to the table with time at the Chataqua Dining Hall and under the tutelage of Chef Bradford Heap (of Colterra and Salt). Their love of bringing a good meal to the table shines through with every course. The salads that preceded our main course were crisp with fresh, homemade dressings, but they barely prepared us for the delights of the main dishes. My chicken orecchiette was rich and complex under a Parmigiano-Reggiano cream sauce studded with smoked prosciutto, oven-dried tomatoes, forest mushrooms and tender smoked chicken. My husband ordered the evening’s special, braised beef cannelloni over green beans with a truffle reduction sauce, which went well beyond expectations. Finally, as we savored our cheesecake trio and tried to identify the tangy sauce that brought out the flavor of the orange cheesecake so well (a balsamic reduction) we easily agreed that if this was mall dining, we were all for it. Asti D’Italia Three Stars 14648 Delaware St., Westminster, in the Orchard Town Center 303.457.3900 Bottom Line: Don’t even pretend you’re going to the mall, just sit back and enjoy.

Challenging Elements: Avocado by Lacy Boggs

Reviewed: June 2010
Believe it or not, avocados are a fruit. That was Asti d’Italia chef Greg Keesy’s first thought when Charlie Stanford, the owner of the Italian spot in The Orchard, told him his secret ingredient. “My first thought was for an appetizer or a dip,” Stanford said, but his chef had other ideas—namely, a mousse. Avocado mousse might sound a little strange, but please trust us when we tell you it’s the kind of strange you need to embrace. First, it’s beautiful, smooth and silky and the color of pistachio ice cream. Dolloped into a glass with a meringue cookie and fresh berries, it creates a striking presentation. Second, it’s absolutely delicious. Blending the avocado with mascarpone cheese, cream and honey for sweetness, the mousse is light and delicate, creamy and rich with a velvety mouth feel that reminds you of all the good fats you’re consuming. Has to be healthy, right? The light fruitiness of the avocado is surprising; if you were tasting blind, you might not be able to identify the flavor, because it’s far from the bold taste one might imagine. But once you know what you’re looking for, the familiarity of the flavors is unmistakable. Finally, this dessert is more than a little addictive. Stanford admitted that he’d been tasting…and tasting and tasting all afternoon. “I’d take one bite, and suddenly it was five or six. And then I had to get to the cookie,” he said. Clearly, so did we. The crispy lightness of the meringue was a pleasant surprise that blended well with the creamy mousse. Top it all with fresh, ripe berries and you absolutely have a winning combination. “I wanted to do something different,” Keesy told us. “I didn’t want to make a plate of guacamole. I was trying to think outside the box.” While he’d done mousses of chocolate and other more traditional flavors before, this was a first. And a far cry from his normal use for avocados in a popular warm shrimp and avocado salad. “I wanted to do something fun,” Keesy said. Lucky for us, his idea of fun is also completely delicious. Look for the avocado mousse perfetto as a dessert special throughout the month of June at Asti d’Italia in The Orchard center in Westminster. Call 303.457.3900 or visit astiditalia.com for reservations and more information.

Sommelier Of The Month ~ Featuring Charles Stanford

The OwnerBio (1)