The other day a friend asked to name a great steak or Italian restaurant in Denver that would be great for a special occasion dinner. I immediately replied, “Quality Italian — it has both steak AND Italian food!” and then went on to describe some of the most memorable dishes I’ve sampled there.
This reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share the details of an amazing dinner I had there recently. I have been so backlogged in my blogging that I haven’t written about it… until now.
As you may remember, earlier this year I had a transformative brunch experience at QI, so I was very excited to try out their dinner menu.
Please note: Financial compensation was not received for this post. I was invited by the PR firm working with Quality Italian to come in for a dinner on the house. Opinions expressed here are my own.
Quality Italian is very popular on the weekends with the Cherry Creek crowd. We headed there fairly early on in the evening, around 5pm and the place was already packed. Luckily, the staff had reserved us a spot at the “Surfboard Bar” up front — some cool seats that are actually behind the wrap-around bar, right next to where the bartenders mix their drinks, which allows you to look out at all the other diners in the main dining area.
Midway through our meal, (as you will see in the photos) it became what I like to call “sexy time” at restaurants – where they dim the house lights and let the candlelight take over, making for a nice intimate mood for the rest of the meal.
We kicked off the meal with the Sausage and Pepper Garlic-Toast ($16) . I know it doesn’t sound particularly thrilling, but oh maw lawd, it is a fantastic dish that I wholeheartedly recommend ordering.
First off, the sausage is a huge flat slab of meat that extends across the piece of toast. It is perfectly cooked, with a bit of searing on the outside, and then inside incredibly juicy. And the flavor is spectacular — probably one of the most delicious sausages I’ve ever had. Paired with a winning combo of cooked peppers and garlic bread – this appetizer is an absolute winner. It’s so big, it could practically be a meal unto itself!
For our main dish, we shared an order of the Baked Lasagna and Filet Meatballs. The girls sitting across from us had ordered this dish with a number of sides and it looked so amazing we told the waiter we wanted the same exact thing. In order to get the lasagna, you really need to come with a buddy because it explicitly served as a very large two-person serving ($27 per person, $54 total).
It’s not your regular lasagna by any means. The dish is stunning — coming out as a deconstructed lasagna, with the pasta sheets are rolled up like roses, and giant filet meatballs interspersed throughout the round baking dish. Generous pats of pesto and fresh basil adorn the top of the dish as well. The whole thing is just and delicious as it is stunning.
We got three additional sides with the main, the Sauteed Spinach ($7), and the Corn Crème Brulee and Grilled Garlic Mushrooms ($9 each). Truth be told, we probably ordered a bit to much food (you can likely get away with only one or two side dishes), but we enjoyed every single thing we ordered.
The creme brulee is fun because you get to crack the caramelized shell on top to get to the rest of the dish, and the spinach and mushrooms are just super tasty.
Even though we ate until we were stuffed, we still had to get the food packed up (which made for an awesome next-day lunch, btw).
And even though we were already full, as you know, there’s always room for dessert! On my previous visit to QI I fell in love with the description of the Salty Pistachio so I knew I had to order it.
It’s a pistachio-flavored ice cream with cherry compote and chocolate-dipped pizelles. Wow, what a spectacular dessert! The ice cream is beautiful and subtle in flavor and everything works in harmony.
The QI staff surprised us with a second dessert, the Cantaloupe Sherbert, and I am so glad they did. It is the type of item that doesn’t really pop out to you on the menu, you just think, “oh, fruit-flavored sherbert” – but it is incredible! I kept eating spoonful after spoonful of it. As a kid, I had some pretty negative experiences with orange-flavored supermarket sherbert at summer birthday parties, and since then never really thought of sherbert as the kind of frozen dessert I’d ever want to eat.
This dish totally changed my perception on what sherbert is and could taste like. It was lighter than gelato, but creamier than I remembered that watery, bitter sherbert I was familiar with from my childhood. This sherbert was wonderfully muted, smooth, and tasted just like a wonderfully ripened cantaloupe. It was topped with a ginger–lime granita, which gave it a little tang, and was set atop a layer of perfect little melon balls.
I never in a million years would have ordered this on my own, but now would get it in a heartbeat.
Quality Italian has done it again. Another amazing, high-quality meal and totally memorable experience.
Quality Italian – 241 Columbine St, Denver, CO 80206
- Decor: Refined rustic elegant
- Crowd: Third date closers, married dinner daters, couple and groups celebrating a special occasion
- Recommended: Sausage and Pepper Garlic-Toast, Baked Lasagna and Filet Meatballs