It would be easy for restaurateur Andrea Frizzi, chef-owner of Il Posto Restaurant in Denver and a native of Milan, Italy, to stay above the immigration fray, not to voice his opinion on the matter. But that’s not Frizzi’s way. Given the very serious and somewhat rancorous national conversation on exactly this topic, the time seemed ripe for a bit of beverage-fueled immigration talk with one of my most thoughtful and loquacious friends.
Il Posto Restaurant
2011 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80206
Tel: (303) 394-0100
“Only Native Americans come from America,” Frizzi says, “And even they walked over from Siberia. So those already here should have access to the papers that allow them to legally contribute to the economy.” Frizzi worked on a visa in New York and Washington, D.C., for many years. Then he got a green card. “This year I will apply for citizenship. I want to be able to vote.”
We Are All Immigrants
Frizzi is adamant that prejudice against immigrants is less prevalent in America than anywhere else he has lived. He is also quick to avoid labels. “Bigotry is a big issue in Italy, but conversations over there can be much more offensive and segregated.” He credits his openness to his father, who was fond of saying that if a man has no dream then he is without legs. “America is still the country of dreams. Anyone who comes here with a dream can fight and die for it.”
His extensive work experience at home and abroad is what makes him, in his own words, “a conservative businessman.” He definitely appreciates the work of the Colorado Restaurant Association. “It’s the only lobby I have. Every restaurant owner in Colorado should join.” To combat unnecessary regulation, Frizzi believes that anyone who wants to be in government should first work in the microcosm of a restaurant. “There she would have to learn budgeting, development, the necessity of paying bills without easy credit, racial integration, foreign exchange, everything that is important in politics.”
In New York you can’t even run a kitchen without immigrants. Colorado’s fewer restaurant options mean less work for marginal employees. But Denver enjoys other significant advantages for non-locals. “This is not an expensive city,” says Frizzi. “A sous chef can make enough money for a good life in Denver. That isn’t possible in New York.”
But How’s The Food and Wine?
Frizzi knows that great neighborhood restaurants please regular customers without excluding newcomers. He passionately extends this philosophy to his food, beverages and service. “Luckily my customers love classic Italian dishes built on fresh, top-notch ingredients, great wines made from obscure grapes, and culinary knowledge delivered by helpful, knowledgeable staff.” His all-star crew of 19 includes sous chefs Lucas Chandler, Jeff Webb and Mario Pacheco, pastry chef Natalia Spampinato, sommelier Max Koepke, and dining room supervisor Kelly Waldo.
Il Posto’s elevated Italian cuisine reflects Frizzi’s passion to take inspiration from all over Italy while incorporating touches of molecular gastronomy into the mix. Each meal starts with a bit of Lambrusco, what Frizzi refers to as his engine-starter. Wines at $40-60 are the heart of Il Posto’s all-Italian list but there are plenty of bottles on either side of that zone. “We sell the hell out of Marzemino, the favorite of both Mozart and my father.” It’s an inspired match for the Polletto Game Hen with foie gras, figs, applewood crema, fennel pollen, almond and green tomato.
Immigration creates a multidimensional world that is much more interesting and vibrant than the alternative. I hope my good friend Andrea is able to become a citizen of the United States, as he so fervently desires, very soon.
(750mL bottles unless otherwise indicated)
Opici Lambrusco NV (Lombardy, Italy) $9/glass, $34/bottle
Lightly floral and aromatic while mixing ripe black cherry, cassis, licorice and cedar. Shows lovely balance on attack, mid-palate and finish.
Kuenhof Sylvaner Eisacktaler DOC 2010 (Alto Adige, Italy) $13/glass, $51/bottle
This promotes aromas of lemongrass and star fruit followed by bits of sage and cilantro. It is definitely full-bodied yet also tangy and lithe.
Contra Soarda Vespaiolo DOC 2011 (Veneto, Italy) $51/bottle
So up-front that it explodes on the nose, with tons of green apple, orange peel and passion fruit backed by an almost over-the-top acidity. Even so, this has great balance on the tongue, with a creamy, ash-laced palate.
Beneventano Rosato di Aglianico Albarosa IGT 2010 (Campania, Italy) $11/glass, $43/bottle
Quite balanced and buoyant, with lemon zest and dried strawberry atop a flint-laced, tobacco-driven finish of medium body and significant length.
Contra Soarda Marzemino Nero Gaggion IGT 2008 (Veneto, Italy) $12/glass, $46/bottle
Stocking this wine is a tribute to Andrea’s late father. Prim and proper, light, airy and very seductive, this offers hints of dried currant, stone and spice on a clean, clear finish.
Poliziano Morellino di Scansano Lohsa DOCG 2010 (Tuscany, Italy) $12/glass, $47/bottle
Chewy and deep, with black currant, dark cherries in syrup and cinnamon dominating aroma and flavor. Still pretty young, yet it has well-integrated acidity and silky tannins.
Bersano Dolcetto d’Alba Coldelfosso DOP 2010 (Piedmont, Italy) $54/bottle
Aromas of orange peel, yellow peach and apricot are followed by tons of stone fruit and blueberry at the very end. Only medium-bodied, it has excellent fruit and a funky, well-defined finish.
Donnas Nebbiolo DOC 2007 (Valle D’Aosta, Italy) $58/bottle
Andrea loves Rhône reds but only stocks Italians at Il Posto. Nonetheless, an origin so close to the French border brings a bit of that country’s influence to this nebbiolo, made from the kingly grape of Piedmont. Of moderate length, this cherry- and currant-laden bottle also shows great lift and verve on a balsam and herb finish.
Vinosia Taurasi Aglianico DOCG 2007 (Campania, Italy) $16/glass, $62/bottle
While aglianico is considered the nebbiolo of the South, this one is not quite as acidic as most Piemontese reds. This means that it is a great food wine. “The violet, ash and dark red fruit are feminine and sophisticated,” says Frizzi, “perfect for our innovative cuisine.”
Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has written for the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com. Ben can be reached at BentheWineBerg@coloradostatesman.com.