Josh Pollack, master of bringing all things East Coast to Denver (e.g. – Rosenberg’s Bagels, Famous Original J’s Pizza), has a new venture — Lou’s Italian Specialties. Ever the pioneer of underserved neighborhoods, this bustling little corner shop is a bit off the beaten path, located at the intersection of 34th St and North Downing, an emerging area at the border of the Curtis Park/Cole areas.
I found this place to be the perfect spot for filling up on provisions for a picnic in the park with a friend. The refrigerated cases have tons of local and imported cheeses and meats to choose from to design the ultimate charcuterie board.
Along with provisions from local vendors like Il Porcellino Salumi, Fruition Farms, Elevation Meats, and River Bear, we grabbed a beautiful Alpine Blossom cheese from Sennerei Huban in Austria that was encrusted with edible flowers that were unlike anything I’d ever tasted before.
Gary, who was helping us out at the counter and around the store, also recommended we grab a fresh loaf of bread to slice up and serve with our selections and gave us a couple of sample bottles of Monini olive oil for dipping. That combo ended up being one of my favorite of the day. Nothing can beat some fresh bread and good EVOO!
Service is very friendly and the staff is more than willing to provide details and background on the hand-selected assortment of goods that stack the shelves along the edge of the shop. You can find premium dried pasta, olive oil, crackers, canned anchovies and sardines, and pantry sundries.
Prices are what you’d expect for a gourmet grocery store, however I think the made to order hot and cold sandwiches showcase the very best of what Lou’s has to offer and bonus – they are very good value for your money.
We sampled the Eggplant Parm (breaded chicken cutlet, Lou’s marinara, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, chopped basil – $13) and the Porchetta Brocolli Rabe (braised porchetta, caramelized onion, provolone cheese, herb aioli, broccoli rabe – $16) – both generously filled to the point of spillover, and both excellent. Each came served with a wonderful dipping sauce and was enough food to serve for two hearty lunches.
UPDATE: Since my initial visit, I’ve been back several times and can also recommend the Eggplant Parmesan plate (instead of being served as a sandwich, it comes with a side of pasta). It’s delicious and hearty and I usually make two meals out of the order.
In addition, we couldn’t help but answer the siren call of the appetizing-looking sides from the deli case. We were wooed by classic Italian specialties like Arancini Balls (which were unbelievable!), Grilled Marinated Artichokes, Eggplant Caponata, and Stuffed Peppers with Prosciutto, which reminded me a lot of the neighborhood Italian food shops I used to visit when I lived in the West Village in NYC.
I’m excited to report that Lou’s exceeded my already high expectations – I found their selection of house-made sandwiches and sides were noticeably better crafted and tastier than the places I most frequently shopped at in New York.
All in all, Lou’s is a great place to stock up on Italian cooking essentials, plus a killer spot to grab gourmet cheeses, meats, and sandwiches to completely up-level your next picnic or event.
Lou’s Italian Specialties – 3357 N Downing St, Denver, CO 80205, (720) 287-3642
Please note: Financial compensation was not received for this post. I was invited by the PR firm working with Lou’s Italian Specialties to sampled items off the menu. Opinions expressed here are my own.