La Forchetta da Massi's Milanese plates please in Pueblo 

click to enlarge Fork-tender ossobuco alla Milanese is carnivore bliss. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Fork-tender ossobuco alla Milanese is carnivore bliss.

Pueblo's food scene bears a reputation for authentic Italian cuisine. La Forchetta da Massi proves no exception. Located in the former Rio Bistro, Forchetta opened in August. It's owned by Daimi Innocenti and operated by her husband, Chef Massimiliano. Known as Massi for short — the restaurant's name translates to "Massi's Fork" — he's from the Varese province, an hour from Milan, near the Swiss border.

We'd love to know more, as food always tastes that little bit better when you know the story. But bad phone connections and deadlines stymie our efforts. And, to be frank, Massi's menu doesn't need a story to bring us back at speed. Everything we order tastes fresh and delicious, indicative of the "keep it fresh, keep it simple" ethos so prevalent in Italian cuisine.

It's possible to be frugal at Forchetta, with most pasta plates landing in the $10 to $15 range — go for house-made fettuccine and ravioli. We splurge on the $22 daily-special lobster ravioli. Tender pasta beautifully presents the clean, lightly sweet seafood, which still shines under a heavy sauce.

But as far as impressive seafood goes, we're gobsmacked by the polipo. Tender pieces of octopus, flown in overnight according to our server, share the plate with halved cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and tender chunks of potato, finished with parsley and lime wedges, all over greens. The menu claims there's a lemon dressing — we only get olive oil, even before adding lime juice — but if we were to get hung up on that, we'd be missing the point. The octopus comes fresh and tender, dressed and accompanied with a delicate sensibility. I'd come back for this and a pour of the house limoncello, which reads more lemon-zest aromatic than sour, without hesitation — 43-mile drive from the Indy's office be damned.

For a more frugal appetizer, bruschetti come five to a plate. We go for the $9 Taleggio option, with which each bruschetta gets a few cubes of the punchy, funky washed-rind cheese, paired with fresh, peppery arugula and wine-glazed grapes, sliced into corkscrews. Taleggio's an acquired taste, but a little winey-fruity sweetness and the peppery greens balance out the powerful flavor, making for a fun bite.

Moving on, ossobuco alla Milanese comes blissfully good over polenta. For those unfamiliar, it's a braised veal shank — an inhumane protein, to be sure, but probably less so than anything that comes out of an American factory farm — sliced so there's a length of bone full of ready-to-eat marrow on each serving. The rich braising liquid leads with carrot and parsley notes, inundating the bone marrow and adding flavor to the fork-tender, perfect-medium meat. It's spendier — $26, on a main course section with prices ranging from $16 to $32 — but a good luxury bang for a diner's buck, and sizable besides.

We finish our meal with aforementioned limoncello, a pitch-perfect cappuccino made from Pueblo-roasted Solar Roast beans and a well-executed tiramisu. We're impressed in our indulgence, from start to finish.

Our meal is a snapshot of the goodness that the Innocentis are cooking up just off the Riverwalk. Expect a menu chock full of northern Italian dishes ranging from the approachable to the exotic. And expect a catalog of excellence, to boot.

Bravissimo, Massimiliano.


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