Isn’t it wonderful that a talented chef can take everyday favorites and turn them into elevated experiences? This is Difranco’s. Familiar menu items, but everything just looks, smells and tastes a little fresher than anything you’ve had in a while. A few traditional tables plus one long communal table in pleasing tones of beige and spring green.
My companion ordered an Italian Mixed Green salad with a meatball on the side. Easily weighing in at 2+ ounces, the single meatball was a satisfying combination of roughly ground meat, finely ground meat, and diced onion just off-al-dente. It resided in a small pool of marinara, making a perfect light lunch. You taller guys out there could probably appreciate two of them, but one was fine for a weekday lunch where no afternoon nap was a possibility.
But back to the salad – perfectly fresh greens, a few beautifully ripe tomato chunks and some shaved fennel. The dressing was a well balanced vinaigrette with a few fresh herbs; exactly the salad you would be served in Italy, either at a modest streetside café or a white tablecloth establishment. It’s the only salad I have ever seen there; there is no messing with perfection.
Being the complete foodaholic that I am, I enjoyed the sweet torture of having arrived early enough to become absorbed in imagining the experience that each menu option would provide. Easy with a menu of three pastas, a lasagne, two salads, three subs and three optional protein sides.
I committed to the Ricotta Ravioli, but requested Spicy Tomato Sauce instead of the Basil Pesto it indicated (see photo of my meal at the top of this page). The ravioli were delicately seasoned in their tender-fresh pasta jackets, as expected, so the sauce was able to shine. I liked the sauce’s texture of just-enough tomato body without being lumpy. I have found that most people also like their marinara to be substantially un-chunky. A bit more shaved garlic in the sauce than is my preference, but probably the right amount for many people.
The scale of room size and menu at Difranco’s is small, but it translates into a warm and inviting spot that easily filled to capacity by 11:45. Clean and bright and easy (oh, and I do love the free underground parking). I will be back, to ensure that I get to sample everything on the menu and decide what will be my eventual favorites. A lovely selection of sweets and a display of sauces, cutlets and cookies to inspire take-away bliss.
Difranco’s is at 955 Lincoln, ground floor of an office building, 720-253-1244. Entrance to the parking garage is just south of the restaurant, so turn left as soon as you see the Difranco sign. Generous operating hours of 9am – 6:30 weekdays, closing at 3pm on Saturday. Go to www.Difrancos.com to get more information and a full menu. Let us know what you ordered and how you liked it!