Flat & Happy: A food startup launches new dishes at Victoria + Co. | AspenTimes.com

Flat & Happy: A food startup launches new dishes at Victoria + Co.

Amanda Rae


“I am going direction of the plant-based,” said Seventh Heaven food entrepreneur Marco Cingolani, currently exploring brick-and-mortar space in Willits. “My vision: a lounge with a coffee shop, juice bar, and wine bar. It’s not a restaurant, not a café, (but) a lounge (in which to) sit down, relax, and be taken care of.”



It’s “just business as usual” at Rustique Bistro this week, says owner Rob Ittner—make that end of business as usual. On Saturday, April 13, the Provençal haunt closes for good after 19 years on Restaurant Row. Last call for French favorites including award-winning truffle mac and cheese, short-rib risotto, and coq au vin. 216 S Monarch St., 970-920-2555, rustiquebistro.com

SUMMER COMES EARLY to Victoria + Co. Espresso + Wine Bar, as Marco Cingolani delivers a tray of artisanal flatbreads, each piled high with a rainbow of toppings, to a table. Patrons do double-takes upon walking past the spread, which joined the café’s list of creative offerings quietly in early April.

Typically Aspen’s offseason lull is when chefs and restaurateurs hash out new, warm-weather dishes. But Cingolani’s concept is ready to serve, little refinement needed. Much to the delight of epicurean locals, the food entrepreneur launched his new Seventh Heaven line of turmeric-rosemary Tuscan flatbread exclusively in partnership with eatery owners Victoria Haveland and John Beatty to rave reviews.

“The recipes I created with John’s help,” Cingolani explains, ticking off a list of non-GMO, organic ingredients that includes unbleached flour—long used in Victoria + Co.’s baked goods and pastries—and freshly grated turmeric activated with black pepper. (The spice boosts bioavailability of curcumin, the root’s anti-inflammatory compound.)

“We’re working on a gluten-free option, possibly with corn or chickpea flours,” he continues. “These are individual sizes, and they satisfy your bread needs!”

Each thin, crispy, elongated disc (also baked in a larger size to share) arrives with a cool combination of zippy salad greens, herbs, roasted vegetables, fruit, berries, wide ribbons of La Quercia prosciutto or Beatty’s house-cured lox. Cingolani doesn’t skimp on toppings—almost all of which were already stocked here in the kitchen for Victoria + Co.’s beloved salads and small plates when he arrived as a consultant to develop his concept.

One flatbread I taste features no fewer than 15 items: Iowa-based La Quercia ‘Nduja, a spicy spreadable sausage, along with 10-month aged Grana Padano, radicchio, arugula, apple, celery, olives, grilled zucchini and artichokes, basil, mint, cilantro and sherry vinaigrette, layered with shaved prosciutto and drizzled with honey.

While this might sound like overkill on a cracker, the gourmet medley simply works in a crunchy, earthy, bright, umami, salty, sweet way. Turns out 15-plus garnishes can coexist on one thin canvas without overwhelming the finished tableau; the trick is a light touch. And each flatbread at Victoria + Co.—four daily options to start, always including a wholly plant-based offering, swapping vegetables and avocado for meat or baba ganoush and hummus for cheese—is made to order.

“I’m calling it ‘craft-casual,’” Cingolani says. “Instead of going fast-casual…momentum instead of speed. Collectively, we’re tired of massive portions of processed items that just fill you up and don’t make you feel good.”

The collaboration between Cingolani, Beatty and Haveland seems a long time coming. Beatty says it’s being coordinated with the development of a dinner and bar menu with head chefs — known in the kitchen as “Bass” and “Tai” — who both recently joined the team. That menu will include: Australian lamb chops with Thai spices; house-made pasta with Bolognese, pesto, or Carbonara sauce; and chicken in lemon beurre blanc.

These and the flatbreads “will complement our wine program—one of the biggest by-the-glass lists in Aspen, all at a significantly better value than anywhere,” Beatty adds.

Long a fixture on the dining scene—most recently as manager of Justice Snow’s alongside owner Michele Kiley and chef Jonathan Leichliter until the restaurant closed for good in February 2018—Cingolani, too, understands local tastes. In fact, Seventh Heaven creations at Victoria + Co. hark to The Cheese Shop, which he and Kiley ran until 2012.

“Since Kiley and I closed The Cheese Shop, we’ve had people asking us about the paninis and salads,” Cingolani shares. “With John and Victoria, since they developed such a great concept with coffee, pastries, and prepared food, (the flatbreads) will help with the middle of the day and afternoons, to go with the (new) menu.”

Seventh Heaven flatbreads may also be par-baked into pliable sheets that are perfect for panini. One version currently available riffs on a Cheese Shop bestselling salad: house-roasted Mary’s Free Range organic turkey with brie and pear. Eventually, Cingolani plans to package the yeast-free flatbreads for retail sale.

“When you toast it on the panini grill, the heat goes straight through, unlike doughy focaccia,” Cingolani explains. “The ingredients come alive. It’s all done in a light, modern way of eating and appreciating ingredients and quality.”

Cingolani’s concept hews close to Beatty and Haveland’s homespun philosophy, honed since the couple opened the first Victoria’s in 2009 in the space now occupied by Bosq. Beatty, who grew up on an orchard outside of Sydney, calls Australia “the home of fresh.”

“We cure steelhead (salmon), sustainably raised in a remote loch in northern Scotland, in Hendricks gin, a hint of mezcal, and Australian native spices that we import,” Beatty says, writing via email from the Land Down Under, where he and Haveland return regularly for cultural R&D. “We have been doing this as a core menu item with bagels or scrambled eggs for seven to eight years. Bagels we get from Brooklyn; our eggs are always organic, hand-cracked to order. We are also working on other flatbread toppings that incorporate the Asian/North African and fusion influences—a core part of Victoria + Co.”

True to form, Seventh Heaven flatbread showcases the lox beautifully, the fish arrayed on a cloud of sour cream, arugula, spring mix, house-pickled fennel and red onion, paper-thin lemon slices, capers, microgreens and lemon zest, with drops of lemon and olive oil sprinkled over top.

“It’s very light,” Cingolani quips.

A natural pairing that tastes of summer in Aspen, indeed.


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