As they celebrate their second anniversary, Salati Italian Street Food, in the Stapleton neighborhood, is unveiling their fall menu. Salati is one of those little treasures of a restaurant found in unlikely places. Nestled in and among boutiques, big box stores, a comedy club and a movie theater in the Shops at Northfield off of I-70 and Quebec, the restaurant stands out for the surprises it offers.
Salati was one of the early locally- and independently-owned restaurants to go into the Stapleton neighborhood, once the site of Denver’s airport. It is now joined by other restaurants throughout Stapleton owned by well-known local chefs including Troy Guard and Lon Symensma. Holding court on the north side of I-70, Salati’s most unexpected surprise is that the Italian-Mexican-Persian Executive Chef and part-owner, Shahin Afsharian-Campuzano, is a Michelin-star chef (earned while working in Monte Carlo), and was a finalist on Food Network’s Chopped last fall. Having worked all over the world, Chef Shahin was happy to make his home in Colorado with his wife and to have full creativity over a menu he could be fully invested in with Salati.
The look of the restaurant is another surprise, starting with the curved, vaulted ceiling meant to be reminiscent of the inside a wine barrel. The wood and stone bar area is modelled after neighborhood restaurants in Italy the owners visited – the kind of comfortable places locals go to and languish over meals prepared by chefs they know well. With an extensive wine selection, attentive service and the warm, open-arms attitude of Chef Shahin, Salati has that feeling of a neighborhood restaurant down some lane in Italy – that just happens to be in an outdoor mall in Denver.
Chef Shahin has crafted the new fall menu to include some old favorites that the regulars demand as well as new dishes. Barbajuan Fried Ravioli with Italian sausage, spinach, basil, risotto, cheese blend and roasted garlic alfredo is one of the most popular dishes on the “Street Food” shareables menu, so-named because Italian food vendors sell this and other items that are convenient to eat while strolling. The Piadina Flatbread Sandwiches are another item that will never leave the menu, being one of the cornerstones of Salati. The Basilicata Piadina, for instance, combines grilled lemon-rosemary chicken, red onion, tomato, cucumber, creamy pesto sauce, pancetta and cheese, wrapped in a house-made flatbread and grilled.
New dishes include the shareable Pepe Scallops & Orzo (three jumbo scallops with a black pepper-parmesan crust, creamy basil pesto orzo and a tomato reduction); Risotto & Shrimp, a gluten-free option with sautéed garlic tiger shrimp, pesto risotto, green peas, zucchini and squash noodles and a roasted red pepper crema; and the Porchetta Carbonara Tortellini which uses a medallion of Salati’s signature 36-hour pork porchetta as its base, topped with fresh pasta ricotta tortellini, pancetta, red onions, green peas, roasted garlic cream sauce and an egg yolk. It’s a stacked take on pasta carbonara.
Thankfully, the housemade Tiramisu (the best we’ve had, anywhere, hands down) isn’t going anywhere, nor are the Piccolo Cannolis. One of my favorite dishes from the weekend brunch menu makes an appearance for dessert – the Blueberry Zeppoles, little dough fritters Chef Shahin’s mother made for him growing up. There’s also a Chocolate Bomb and Limoncello-Mascarpone Cake and more.
In addition to weekend brunch, running 11am-3pm with a wide variety of options, Salati also serves lunch during the week from 11am-4pm. With a pared down menu, the Salati Express Lunch takes on a more casual format. Guests walk down the line, along Salati’s open kitchen and order Piadina Flatbread sandwiches, salads, pasta or soup, interacting with the kitchen staff creating their option. By the time, the guest reaches the end of the line to pay, their order is ready to go.
Salati is a great place for a quick bite, to linger over a meal, to take a group or to organize a big gathering (they also do catering). As another added bonus, there ‘s plenty of free parking in the lots around Northfield. Follow their Facebook page for news their bi-weekly wine tasting seminars and of themed dinners.
Salati Italian Street Food is located in the Shops at Northfield, off of I-70 (take either the Quebec or Central Park Blvd. exits) at 8270 Northfield Blvd., Denver.