Food Matters: Pitkin County Sheriff, Deputies assist a community dinner at L’Hostaria
If You Go ...
What: Ronco delle Betulle Wine Dinner, hosted by Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to benefit MindUP. 3 courses, 3 wines, $120
Where: L’Hostaria Ristorante, 620 E. Hyman Ave.
When: May 11
RSVP: 970-925-9022, hostaria.com
Established post-9/11 in 2003, this neuroscience-based, signature program of the Goldie Hawn Foundation, “teaches the skills and knowledge children need to regulate their stress and emotion, form positive relationships, and act with kindness and compassion…tools to build resilience in the face of increased societal risk for aggression, anxiety, depression, and suicide.” mindup.org
Have you ever been served by an officer in uniform — served a plate of pasta, that is, or a glass of wine? On May 11, locals will be able to greet Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and five deputies in this more cheerful kind of service role during a fundraising wine dinner at L’Hostaria.
Having hosted numerous philanthropic events over the past 23 years — about once per season these days — the restaurant is a natural choice for this only-in-Aspen experience. Evidence looms in the bar lounge: an iconic portrait of DiSalvo’s predecessor of 24 years, former Sheriff Bob Braudis.
“For me, the painting has a big meaning: Power on one end with the sheriff star, then freedom (with peace-sign fingers)—it’s a symbol (of Aspen),” says L’Hostaria owner Tiziano Gortan, whose artist friend in Italy painted the image from a photograph shot locally by Karl Wolfgang. “Don’t forget the past. Bob, the sheriff, is the symbol of Aspen in the days when there was a huge transition. It’s respect for his personality.”
Embracing societal change is about as political as it gets here. Instead, the dinner with DiSalvo next Saturday is about community enjoyment for a cause. In addition to the regular dining room and bar menus, chef Ruben Bonomi will offer a three-course prix-fixe menu of fare from Gortan’s native Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, where Ronco delle Betulle winery is based. (Think: grappa-marinated trout carpaccio and homemade herb-stuffed ravioli with smoked ricotta.)
Betulle winemaker Simone Sechi will pour three Northern Italian wines for the occasion; 20 percent of proceeds will benefit MindUP, a national program launched by the Goldie Hawn Foundation, which teaches social and emotional learning to children at Basalt Elementary and Aspen Elementary schools. (Part-time Aspen resident Hawn is expected to attend.)
Here’s what Sheriff DiSalvo says about why this organization matters, what we can learn from longstanding restaurants, and how mindfulness might make the world a better place.
Hosting a wine dinner—have you done anything like this before?
(Laughing) No, I have worked in restaurants—that’s as close as I’ve come. Tiziano asked if we would help, be servers and bussers. We’ll all be in our uniforms. I know sometimes at Starbucks they have “coffee with the cops,” but I don’t know that this has ever been done in Aspen. It will be a fun, casual evening for a great cause.
Does MindUP’s mental-fitness mission have personal significance?
I got introduced to it through Goldie a few years ago. I always had trouble learning as a kid. It took me a long time to learn to learn. We need to change the way we teach our kids—we can all learn to learn better, if that makes sense.
I spoke to the (Aspen Elementary) principal a few months ago; he says it’s been very successful but they need more money for training teachers and supplies. This is a chance to jump in and raise money.
You also present the Sheriff’s Cup charity golf tournament every summer, setting an annual goal of $100,000.
Every two years we change recipients—the Aspen Hope Center, Huts for Vets. This (dinner) is to kickoff for next year, where I’ll probably (select) MindUp for that golf tournament. This is where I’m going to focus my nonprofit energy for a while.
Do you see a positive correlation between education and law enforcement issues?
Well, you hope for that. I mean, anybody can go bad if they don’t learn well. MindUP gives alternatives on how teachers teach, to learn how to rest the brain when appropriate through meditation, mindfulness and breathing.
Similar to the City of Aspen wellness program offered internally to employees?
People on my staff have been through the one- or six-month program and they brag about it!
Yoga and meditation is taught to inmates at the Pitkin County Jail, too?
It helps keep the population chill. It always amazed me why we would put weights in the jail and buff guys out instead of exhausting them with treadmills. I do see a difference in the population, and I know our teachers do. It’s a good thing.
What’s your food background?
I’m second-generation Sicilian. I love to eat, and I love the food at L’Hostaria. That’s about as close to the food world as I get. When I like something, I know it.
I’m more of a spirits drinker. But I’d never turn down a glass of wine.
This work hard, play hard, be safe mentality is the Aspen ideal—at L’Hostaria especially.
They want you to feel like family. My mother loved going there. She died in ’89. She lived in Glenwood and always wanted to come to L’Hostaria. You leave whatever troubles you have outside. You feel like you’re having a meal at home but you’re really out among friends.
Have you seen our dining landscape change over the years?
I got to Aspen in 1980 so I’ve seen a lot of restaurants hit and run. The ones with the longest runs have pretty much the same recipe as L’Hostaria: Cater to locals, treat as good, stay open in the offseason and build a local clientele with reasonable prices. L’Hostaria is on outskirts of the core, subterranean, and it still manages to knock it out every night of the week. They treat people very well.
How would you describe the energy in town today?
That’s a hard question when we’re talking about such an upbeat subject, because I have seen some changes. Some are promising, some I’m not that thrilled about. But that could just be an old local, talkin’ old-local talk! You know, “(these) days aren’t as good as they used to be.”
Fabrizio (Brovelli) and Tiziano are the foundation of Aspen. You gotta depend on that core group. There are some people who have different ideals or focuses—a little more selfish, maybe. And the line between the haves and the have-nots has grown. But I feel like everybody who works for me is rooted in the community. Has to be rooted in the community. …I hope we’re all learning something new every day.
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