February 10, 2004
It has been said by some (but not me) that Snowmass Village is not usually your first choice when it comes to spending an evening out … unless you live in Snowmass Village, of course. It can just be such a long way up that hill, you know, and there’s the weather, and the blah, blah, blah.
Now, I can guarantee you that whoever is uttering such slander has never had the Pizetta at Il Poggio on a snowy winter’s night, or even on a calm summer’s eve. Il Poggio is a jewel in the jewel of the Aspens.
See, we made that trek recently in some pretty nasty weather, from Aspen to the Village, icy roads, low visibility, cars flipping in front of us, the whole bit, and from the moment I first spread the cambozola and roasted garlic on that fresh-out-of-the-oven rosemary flat bread and put it in the old profiler, well … what snowstorm?
All of the flatbreads and focaccias at Il Poggio are made in the 500 degree brick oven nestled in the corner of the cafe dining area. It is almost as much of a pleasure to watch the baker work as it is to eat the result. Almost. Especially on a cold evening, when just looking at that authentic oven from across the room will warm your cockles.
OK. Enough about your cockles. Let’s get down to bidness: There is a full bar at Il Poggio, with an extensive wine list, heavy on the California and Italian reds. You can dine either in, go figure, the dining room or the cafe area. The same menu is available at both places, with the dining room being a little more along the sit-down formal lines, and the cafe area a little more casual. Also, the cafe area is first come, first serve, and seating in the dining room is by reservation.
Yeah, yeah, reservations, first come, whatever … what about the food?
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First, perhaps, could be the pizza. These are individual pizzas baked…you guessed it, right smack dab on the bricks of that previously mentioned oven. Depending on what you are up for, this could be either a snack, a meal or just the start of beautiful things to come. Some of the creations include the basic margherita, with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella ($8.50), the scampi e vongole (langoustino, clams, pancetta, garlic butter and parmesan, $9.50), the primavera (garlic butter, fontina, fresh tomato, zucchini, onions and basil, $9) and the pollo affumicato (smoked chicken, mushrooms, peppers and fontina, $9).
From the land of antipasti: There is, well, antipasta salad, field greens, sweet peppers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, parmesan, salami and proscuitto with a balsamic vinegar dressing ($9.50), or how about the bruschetta, bread brushed with olive oil and garlic, grilled and served with robiola cheese, roasted sweet peppers and aged balsamic ($7.50). We recommend, in addition to the pizzetta, the solmone, so named because it is, well, salmon…cured with lemon and fennel, served with saffron cream and a potato pizzelle ($8.50).
The Il Poggio menu is dense…there are not a lot of pages to flip through, but you could have just as hard a time trying to figure what to order nonetheless. Ordering one thing, of course, means having to give up so many others. Life is just one stumbling block after another, eh?
Of the five pasta dishes, I had the gemelli–langoustino (lobster tail) sauteed with garlic, lemon, basil, Italian parsley and Cinzano ($16.50). A wonderfully light dish, and a fine choice, but it meant not having the ravioli (a hazelnut cream sauce and goat cheese and sweet potato filling, $15.50), the fettucine (smoked chicken and crimini mushrooms in a gorgonzola cream sauce, $15.50) or the farfalla (arugula, tear-drop tomatoes and roasted garlic with pinenuts and goat cheese, $14.50). Oh, how I have suffered.
Moving on to the villa of secondi, how about the arista di maile–roasted garlic and herb encrusted pork loin with polenta and citrus confettura. (NOTE: Having had at least my share of roasted garlic in my life, I should, in all fairness, point out that at Il Poggio they do not mess around when it comes to the sacred clove. Their roasted garlic will make you want to cry. Go ahead…let it out.) There is also the grilled polenta with choice of chicken parmesan sausage or grilled portabella and served with either pomodora sauce or grilled radicchio for $16.50, the beef tenderloin with grilled portabella, porcini butter and gorgonzola potatoes ($26.50) and daily fish specials. My companion had the swordfish, and is still talking about it.
Now, if you have Il Right Stuff, there is dessert and coffee waiting to push you over the edge of bliss. In addition to the usual selection of coffees, Il Poggio has a nice selection of winter drinks along the Bailey’s, Frangelico, Kahlua and Grand Marnier lines that you don’t necessarily have to wait until this point to have, but they would go nicely with, say, tiramisu, chocolate hazelnut tort, sundried cherry, chocolate and almond biscotti, or any number of sorbets that are there to round it all up for you. Good luck.
Oh yeah, and there is also the incredibly relaxed atmosphere and friendly waitstaff to contend with, so prepare yourself.
If you live in Snowmass Village, then I’m preaching to the choir, but if you are a non-Villager, then listen up: Quit complaining about the weather … the trip up the hill is worth it if Il Poggio is your destination.