He Said/She Said: Sarto’s
Unedited scenes from dining and date nights in Denver
Kevin and Betsy Marr are “He” and “She.” Together, they produce Reign Magazine, with all but a wall and 12 feet separating them day in and day out. Their date night adventures are authentic and unedited exchanges.
HE: I surprised you with this dinner at Sarto’s for your birthday. You didn’t know where we were headed until we pulled up. What did you think of the exterior when you saw it?
SHE: You know I’m the worst at judging a book by its cover. In this case, it paid off. I believe the expression was “this is super cute!” Translation? The Jefferson Park location is the epitome of a neighborhood in the midst of an urban transformation and its exterior pays homage to its history while evoking a decidedly modern feel. Sarto’s is on trend and welcoming all the same. Again – translation? Super cute.
HE: Ok. I’ll just say it reminded me of a corner restaurant in Chicago or New York City so I was immediately stoked about the vibe. Then we got inside and the interior was mind blowing. Clean. Sleek. Very thoughtful with a clear attention to detail. Lots of white with the accompaniment of perfect pops of color. Here we haven’t even seen food or drink yet and I’m ready to move in regardless.
SHE: As a sucker for great marketing, the details were not lost on me. Somehow, good design and a cool logo make the food taste that much better. “Sarto” is Italian for “tailor” and the restaurant’s décor follows this edict perfectly without being overly contrived or kitschy. A difficult balance to strike indeed, but proprietor Taylor Swallow (who says his moniker has no bearing on the restaurant’s name – for the record, we think he should fib and go with it) does the art form proud. Pinstripe banquettes and perfectly “tailored” furnishings play off thoughtful accents like a houndstooth upholstered wall. In fact, the Sarto’s logo bears a simple nod to the name with a needle and thread accent. Well done, Taylor. Well done.
HE: The bartender concocted this cocktail of awesomeness based on my appreciation for vodka AND gin with cucumber. He nailed it. Since it was your birthday, you were already on the wine train. What you got hit the spot too.
SHE: Ahh the wine train. Indeed. Perhaps it was this locomotive of libations that prompted me to act like I totally knew what Campari was and order one of the joint’s signature drinks – the Campari Americano. In his defense, the waiter asked me if I was familiar with the liqueur to which I nodded in agreement. I wasn’t. At all. Thankfully, it was a tasty way to start the meal.
HE: I inhaled those home made pickles they brought out. I know you’re not a fan but those who are won’t be disappointed. Our waiter steered us in the right direction with the Fritto Misto. That medley of calamari, shrimp and scallops tossed with capers, cabbage, preserved lemons and Calabrian peppers was the perfect precursor to the rest of the meal.
SHE: Um, don’t forget the bread service. My favorite food group.
HE: Patience, little one. We take good bread very seriously and Sarto’s has it, don’t they?
SHE: Oh they do. Around this time we switched over to wine (my other favorite food group). Do the smart thing and let Swallow or one if his servers pick for you. At his recommendation we had the Frescobaldi di Castiglioni. A $55 bottle that tastes like a $100 bottle. Love that. It’s like finding Louboutins at an outlet mall.
HE: I was starving when we arrived and was ready to eat anything that wasn’t bolted down. I initially had my mind set on the traditional Chicken Parm before even seeing the menu. I know. I’m such an unoriginal Irishman. Then our waiter sold me on a combination of the gnocchi which was housemade ricotta dumplings tossed in a basil pesto cream sauce that was out of this world AND the beef manzo which consisted of flame grilled skirt steak with salsa verde sauce of parsley and white anchovy and (my favorite) crispy fried potatoes. It was an unbelievable collection. I love those Italians.
SHE: The great thing about Sarto’s is that you get to try a little bit of everything, if you’re so inclined. House made pastas come in both primi and entrée portions so one can easily indulge in a little bit of classic Italian revelry before she moves on to her “griglia.” I had the Pappardelle but only took a few bites – it was ordered “for the table” which is code for “I want it but don’t want to sound like a fat kid ordering it in addition to my meal.” From there, it was on to the Aragosta (lobster). Heavenly. It was a savory crepe filled with perfectly done lobster with mascarpone and a carrot ginger sauce. It’s quite possibly my favorite dish in Denver.
HE: The Pappardelle was insane. I could have eaten that from a trough. To the point that I opted to take some home so I could eat it cold in the middle of the night or the next day. I will order that every time from now on. Remember you excused yourself to the ladies’ room and came back raving about the hallway and décor to the bathrooms? No stone unturned with Sarto’s when it came to design. That was and is a cool hallway to the powder rooms.
SHE: It is – and that’s where I discovered the takeout shop in the back. Freshly made sandwiches and full on homemade meals in to go containers. My dinner party problems are officially solved. Let’s be honest, we both know the only thing I know how to make are reservations.
HE: Yeah. Your cooking makes airline food seem gourmet. That counter is open for lunch and the sandwich menu looked delicious. Of course we made room for dessert and the chocolate chip bread pudding was life changing. The people at the table next to us saw us recreate something out of Animal Planet the way we took to that sweet plate and I’m positive they ordered the same thing. That was an extremely memorable dessert.
SHE: Okay, I don’t consume anything akin to a scene from Animal Planet. But semantics, I guess. Because yes, the dessert was life changing. As we finished our meal, I noticed how busy the restaurant had gotten – bustling with well dressed patrons of the foodie kind clamoring for a coveted table. A rare and significant accomplishment for any new restaurant in its infancy, and one of which Swallow and his crew should be proud. Well deserved, indeed. Run people, don’t walk.
HE: No arm twisting needed in going back to Sarto’s. In fact, let’s get something on the calendar to enjoy that outside patio. Finding good Italian food can be tricky so we’ll continue to hug this one. I’m still considering naming our first child “Pappardelle.”