It feels sooo good to be back in the swing of things again – getting to know all the new business owners who are adding to the incredible vibrancy of our town. That’s why when I was invited to a media luncheon to check out the new Nello Alpine Restaurant in Aspen, I said Well Hell Yeah!
It’s in a good spot, Nello Alpine, slopeside to Ajax Mountain with an outside patio that boasts a European clientele. And if you don’t want to be hazed by skiing friends who are of the firm belief that you have to earn your “Après,” you can always slip up the back stairway from the mall.
Walking in late from XGames traffic, I joined the other media at the spacious big top, our very own Algonquin Round Table. We said our hellos and were served Peach Bellinis that tasted as fresh as a harvested peach from Paonia – with bubbles. It was such a beautiful combination of creamy, frothy and sweet with an effervescent punch, I wanted to swim in it.
To complement the Bellinis we were served a Barrata Caprese salad with Prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, basil, arugula and fresh Barrata from the outskirts of Rome. For my entree I ordered the Black Cod with a Roasted Sweet Miso Sauce and tri-colore salad as per restaurant owner, this was based on Nello Balan’s suggestion during his interview on Aspen82; Cod, Apfelstrudel and chocolate came top on his list of favorite menu items. The fish was perfectly cooked with the miso sauce adding a touch of sweet flavor for the taste buds. When I complimented Nello on the dish he leaned into me with a mischievous smile and said, “For sure it’s better than Nobu,” and then went on to say, “One thing I never compromise in this business is quality.”
The other menu item met with divine exclamation was the recommended Osso Buco – although not a huge carnivore, I enjoyed watching the others delicately spoon up the marrow from the bone and savor the bite.
For dessert we had a sampling of everything – AND THEN Nello Balan came to sit with us and ordered a second dessert, a round of shaved truffles for the table. Although fully satiated, I had plenty of room to slurp up every last bite as I died and floated up to heaven for one prolonged buttery, garlicky Fettucini truffle laden moment.
With his inquisitive nature, The Aspen Times WineInk columnist, Kelly J. Hayes, brought out the story from Nello revealing a love for Aspen, as portrayed in his quote in The Aspen Times, “The nature is amazing. The town is magical. It’s like a fairy tale…In Aspen, people are kind. They stop by, they say hello to you, and in five minutes, you’re friends, sharing a gondola up the mountain.” Nello also spoke of his knack for choosing prime locations for his restaurants; 24 years ago he opened in New York City on 62nd & Madison, before Prada and Hermes. Other restaurants have been opened in London, Saint-Tropez, France, Monte Carlo, Monaco, his home country of Romania, and now slopeside in Aspen.
I have never felt like staying long in the other restaurants previously occupying this spot, but when dining with Nello in his cozy, laid-back and festive dining room, with countless rounds of cocktails being served, and stories being shared of princesses, “mini-me” business partners, and a ten year old son who cooks lamb chops, I had no desire to leave.
When I did reach for my coat, I received a warm hug goodbye and I promised to come back whenever I could to experience Costin the bartender’s fancy tricks and Nello Alpine’s affordable bar menu. But I made a mental note to first go skiing to earn my shaved truffles.