You never forget your first time.
I was sighing over a forkful of Antonio Laudisio’s fresh, al dente fettuccine scarcely dressed with a simple tomato sauce and a blessing of high-end olive oil. I flashed back to the first time I tasted risotto at Laudisio Ristorante eons ago. I remember the taste, the texture, the aroma and my amazement that Italian cuisine included a creamy rice dish like risotto.
There was a time when the North Boulder restaurant overseen by the Laudisio brothers was considered one of the best fine-dining Italian eateries in the state. In recent years, many locals know the Laudisio name for the woodburning pizza stand formerly at the Boulder Farmers Market and his paella catering events. Both were usually overseen by the avuncular, white-bearded paterfamilias, Antonio Laudisio. He and his family were also deeply involved in the dearly departed happy-hour hotspot The Med.
At the age of 81, Antonio Laudisio doesn’t really want to open another eatery. He doesn’t need to prepare another mouth-pleasing steamed artichoke dressed with shrimp, olives and capers in vinaigrette.
Yet I found him cooking once again at the Laudisio pop-up at Raglin Market, the breakfast and lunch cafe in Gunbarrel. He was invited to open on Friday and Saturday nights this summer by Matthew Jensen, who also owns Mateo restaurant. Jensen, like dozens of local and national chefs, bakers and restaurateurs, once worked for Antonio Laudisio.
“I want to pass on this stuff—and how to make it—to my grandchildren. This is Italian family cooking that mothers have taught to their children for generations. It’s more than recipes,” Laudisio says. His teenage grandson, also named Antonio, is helping this Friday evening with the food and service, and other family members also assist.
There is no regular menu at this pop-up, but the fare is familiar. It can include hot and cold antipasti, fettucini con funghi (or puttanesca or fra diavolo), cannelloni excelsior, chicken cacciatore, veal scallopini (served picatta- or Marsala-style), shrimp scampi and true tiramisu.
Guests can choose the prix fixe “just feed me” option, or just one entrée. “If there’s an Italian dish that somebody remembers, we’ll try to make it for them if we can,” Laudisio says. His notorious pickiness about ingredients means he is sourcing fresh veal from France.
The meals are served with a selection of Italian wines chosen by his son, Tavio Laudisio, a former wine importer, who sometimes welcomes confused guests and introduces them to the pop-up concept. Other diners are longtime Laudisio patrons thrilled to be able to taste the fare again and hang out with the family.
Recipe of the Week: Colorado spud fudge
According to the U.S. Potato Board, “Potatoes are the ultimate canvas for flavor and creativity.” Here’s a spud recipe that pushed the envelope from the San Luis Valley Potato Administration Commission.
Colorado Quick Potato Fudge
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup well-mashed potatoes (no peels!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or a bowl above a pot of simmering water). Add potatoes, salt and vanilla and stir very well. Add chopped nuts, knead until smooth and press into an 8-inch square pan. Cool completely. Cut into squares and serve. Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.
Culinary Calendar: Fermenting knowledge
Boulder’s Dry Storage hosts a May 21, class on Fermenting Vegetables with Mara King and Kirsten Shockey. drystorageco.com … The Marshall fire benefit feast June 15 and Denver’s Guard and Grace features Food Network chef Rocco DiSpirito and Denver chef Troy Guard. tinyurl.com/3a2f4mju