Side dish: Meet the piada 

Mongolia to Milan

Colorado Springs, meet the piada. Sometimes called an Italian tortilla or quesadilla, it's a wrap-like olive oil and flour flatbread into which various meats, cheeses and toppings are stuffed. Conceptually, national piada restaurant chains have been compared to Chipotle Mexican Grill knockoffs.

A local partnership (wishing not to be named) that's behind our first piada place, Gloni Italian Street Food (1817 S. Nevada Ave., 328-1000), doesn't shrug at the comparison, and in fact mentions the process of building your own sandwich at their new outfit (for around $6 to $8) as very much like the experience of building your own burrito at said socially conscious foil shizzle house.

Gloni is taking over the former TK's Mongolian Grill and plans to open Thursday, May 3, with BOGO specials through May 5.

How it'll work: You'll go down a line and pick a piada, salad or pasta base, then meats (including steak, Italian sausage and salmon), a sauce (alfredo, red pepper pesto, diablo pomodoro, etc.) and then toppings (cheeses, olives, mushrooms, etc.). Pair your creation with soups like a lobster bisque, a side salad or even breaded, fried calamari. Finish it off with a fizzy, flavored Italian soda.

Pearls to bullfighters

In the former La Perla Tapatia location at 511 N. 30th St., El Torero Mexican Restaurant (632-4980) recently opened. Owner Louisa Yanez-Herrera, only 20 years old, says she and a small staff cook all three meals fresh daily, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. weekends).

"The only thing that comes out of a can is our condensed milk," she says, noting family recipes that draw influence from Northern Mexico mostly.

Guests to "the bullfighter" will recognize the standards like chile rellenos, burritos, enchiladas and mole, but there's a handful of items that are lesser-seen if not totally unique to the Springs. One is a torta ahogada-like mollete breakfast sandwich of fluffy Mexican bread filled with eggs, beans, cheese and salsa. Another is a sopapilla-esque dessert of buñuelos, a type of fried flour dough topped in cinnamon, sugar, honey and whipped cream. Also unique alongside a homemade horchata is a jamaica drink, essentially a sweet hibiscus flower iced tea.

In rolled a caterpillar

Omens of a good restaurant: When it's been open just two weeks and already loyal regulars have built it a Twitter fan page (See @FusionJapan and a killer caterpillar roll pic @nicbovee.) Such is the case of Fusion Japan (765 Gold Hill South Place, Woodland Park, 687-2228), a sushi, Thai and hibachi eatery run by former Denver restaurateur Lilly Zhuo.

Zhuo says she's been selling out of many dishes before closure each night, because the initial, favorable response has outpaced her kitchen's prep abilities. We'll take that as another promising sign.


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