Food: Three and a half stars
Service: Four stars
Ambience: Three stars
Address: 5530 Spine Road, Boulder
Contact: 303-530-1326, aperitivoboulder.com
7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday
7 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Low to moderate, which probably changes when they have their live music events going on. As it was, there was a pop soundtrack playing in the background. This had the dual effect of making me feel old as well as compelling me to wildly swing my arms around to approximate something looking like dancing.
The term Aperitivo, roughly speaking, applies to the Italian custom of enjoying a post-work drink with light food, as well as to the beverages integral to this ritual. It also happens to be the name of a Gunbarrel eatery, which opened in July, and began dinner service earlier this month.
The restaurant, tucked away in the Apex apartment complex, is a product of the neighborhood's recent residential construction boom. Aperitivo's small plate and cocktail offerings are certainly appropriate given its namesake. But the breadth of the menu goes well beyond the idea of pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, as breakfast and lunch items are all on tap, as well as coffee drinks and gelato. Given this eatery's versatility, it could just as well have been named Swiss Army Knife. However, I suspect that adopting this appellation would have led to some copyright lawyers showing up at the front door.
This moderately-sized spot is bright and airy, with a welcoming coffeehouse vibe, accented by a hint of European modernity. Staff here is among the friendliest I've encountered this year, and thorough the entire meal, I felt more like a esteemed friend and guest than simply a customer.
On a Saturday night, my companion and I ordered off of the newly minted dinner menu, a straightforward affair divided into tapas, salads, cheese and charcuterie boards, entrees and desserts. Offerings included such small plates as prosciutto with melon, a trio of tacos, and the Italian potato schmear, featuring smashed spud topped with herbes de provence, olive oil and butter. A pan-seared half chicken and a penne pasta chicken Alfredo were among the main courses.
For starters, the excellent $7 truffle Parmesan fries were some of the best potatoes I've had in a long time. Narrow gauge and golden, these fries boasted a marvelously crisp outside texture, coated with a combination of salt and truffle oil seasoning that was dead solid perfect. The funkiness of the Parmesan was a fitting match to the assertive but not overbearing truffle, making for a most addictive treat that could easily be an enjoyable light meal on its own.
Splitting the $7 ensalada quinoa made for two portions of respectable size. The housemade avocado vinaigrette packed a bold green herbal punch that was more assertive than what one would find in a more traditional dressing made in the French manner. This potent condiment, coupled with plenty of candied walnuts made for a more substantial than expected course. However, while the mixed greens were certainly fresh, the dressing had caused some wilting that might be avoided by a lighter hand with this ingredient.
Simplicity was the order of the day when it came to the $18 pan roasted salmon main course. Perfectly cooked, this thick fish filet was subtly crisped on the exterior while the interior was moist and tender, if not silky in texture. A simple citrus gastrique was the ideal accompaniment to the fresh fish, which required very little adornment to shine. A side of vegetable flecked pearly couscous was a winning side, elevated by chunks of tender eggplant that happily lacked even a trace of bitterness.
Aperitivo's globe-trotting breadth was further reflected in my $16 short rib Panang curry entree. Given that this restaurant shares ownership with Longmont's Urban Thai, I wasn't surprised that this was a well-executed selection, featuring a creamy coconut red curry base, and a smattering of peas and carrots. While the default spicing was far from fiery, there was no questioning this curry's Thai provenance, and meaty short ribs, rendered tender by braising were an appealingly flavorful choice. A side of Jasmine rice contributed a pleasant floral aroma, and was and ideal foil to the comforting curry.
A pair of $8 desserts demonstrated both care and quality. The chocolate mousse struck the right balance between dark cocoa notes and the creamy, and spotlighted a luxuriously smooth texture. A lemon meringue tart wasn't overly sweet, but still possessed a citrusy tang that didn't go overboard in the tartness department. One nice detail is that each featured a distinct fruit sauce as an accompaniment; blueberry came with the mousse, while strawberry paired with the meringue.
Aperitivo strikes the right notes when it comes to dishing out an international array of food and drink in a welcoming setting. While it excels in its role as a versatile neighborhood spot, its quality offerings also make it a destination eatery.