Like something off the Universal Studio lot, Bravino's Trattoria and Pizzeria looks like it was dressed by a set designer. It's the quintessential Italian eatery. Loaded down with a variety of wrought iron fixtures and adorned with the appropriate amounts of foliage, the walls are a testament to faux finishing that any Home Depot demo instructor would be proud of. While the name "trattoria" represents a small, low-priced casual eatery in Italy, I often wonder if it means an extra dollar per item in America, similar to the word "bistro." Though the fancified interior contradicts the casual concept, the easygoing staff and rustic menu don't.
A varied mix of easy to take away items like calzones and meatball, sausage and pepper, and chicken parmesan Italian hero sandwiches range in price from $7 to $8.50.
The huge Black and Blue salad ($8.25) of pancetta (Italian bacon), tomato, avocado and blue cheese crumbles served on a bed of spring greens combined for a mouth full of salty, creamy, tart and crisp a solid offering. Beautiful layers of prosciutto, pancetta, capocolla, Genoa salami and pepperoni make up the foundation of the Antipasto platter ($8.25). Slices of provolone, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, kalamata and green olives rounded out the dish along with a crouton-like accompaniment. Almost perfect on the whole, the cured meats deserved better than the sub-par bread. I'd recommend Bravino's subbing their outstanding pizza dough as a flat bread.
That crisp, chewy dough and the perfect amount of cheese made Bravino's pizzas a hit. The eatery offers more than 20 veggie and meat toppings ($1.25 to $2.50 per item, depending on size), ranging from shallots to pineapple to jalapeos and the usual suspects. On our first visit we chose the 12-inch mushroom delight ($11.50), comprised of grilled portobellos and field mushrooms atop their classic crust. We decided on the blanca (or white pizza) with a white sauce instead of the classic red, a tasty option. The second visit, we opted to dress our own cheese pizza ($10) in pepperoni. Again, a winner, and how can you mess up a build-your-own anyway?
Bravino's, though, unfortunately did manage to trip themselves up on their pasta platters. Traditional dishes like chicken parmigiana and spaghetti and meatballs were available, but we went for the Linguini with Clams ($13.35).
This is where, had I listened more intently to our server, I might have made a better choice. Service being informal on both visits, when we placed our order, our waiter was quick to tell us that fresh whole clams weren't in the offering. We would instead be treated to clam pieces. (Read: can, not shell.)
Described as "linguini tossed in fresh plum tomato, basil and garlic clam sauce," the dish, as my husband noted, was swimming in a pool of water. Soupy, lacking flavor and with floss-inducing bits of rubbery clams, this dish didn't warrant the rich price.
As highlighted on the menu, Bravino's uses Artisan ravioli from Denver's popular Pappardelle's Pasta, sold at farmer's markets around the state and found on the menu at the Broadmoor Hotel. Alas, disappointment came when the lovely, large grilled eggplant ravioli ($13.95) not only hadn't quite made it to al dente and was a tad too crunchy, but it had lost its eggplant flavor under the tangy marinara sauce.
While Bravino's pastas undoubtedly need some fine-tuning, they can for now sing about their great dough and thankfully, good sweets. The sweet, fluffy and creamy homemade tiramisu ($4.95) ended our meal on a high note.