Osteria? Not even closteria. Not in my book, anyway, which is literal & filled with snapshots of snug, humble spots in Orvieto & Agrigento & Trieste; not to my mind, full of memories of the kind of place where you might catch glimpses of a lumpy old mamma in slippers at the stove through the kitchen door, stirring pots & plating your fettine di cavallo arrosto (a horse is a course, of course, of course) while her son il cameriere brings round shots of grappa every time his team scores in the soccer game on the little black-&-white set at the hostess stand. An osteria is not sprawling & sleek & buzzing with lovelies freshly descended from their 400-million square feet of Lodo loft.

Misnomer aside, though, Osteria Marco is a pleasure, sheer & simple. Aided by a bartender who was engaged, savvy & honest—a rare combo, though less rare, it strangely seems to me, among bar staff than among waitstaff—we grazed & grazed & grazed some more, basically laying waste to the fecund field of meat & cheese that is the menu while drinking deep from the red red springs of the Quartino.

Speaking of fields, I sowed the inaugural soil of Denveater with the seeds of a Top 5 list that has since lain fallow from not neglect so much as the lack of crop potential. Until now. OM’s much & rightly ballyhooed burrata’s officially up there with Black Pearl’s calamari, Rioja’s pork belly & Sushi Sasa’s black cod. In fact, it’s the literal cream of the crop, a sort of deliquescent mozzarella. Or the salty marshmallow of cheeses. I’d totally use it for fluffernutters, especially between chargrilled slices of country bread like these.

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Gnocco fritto usually evoke nothing so much as mini-sopaipillas; here, they’re more like cheese crackers. In fact, that’s exactly what they’re more like, otherwise known as frico, only solid instead of lacy. See for yourself:

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OM’s gnocco fritto

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typical gnocco fritto

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typical frico

Be it another misnomer or not, the result is a fine mouthful—all peppery, cheesy crunch.

As for these utter rose petals of braesola—wine-cured beef—

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their thinness may actually have done their flavor a disservice; to say that braesola is salty by definition is not quite to say that it’s definitively salty. Like good pastrami, it should still register as beef. Still, they’re just so heartbreakingly pretty, no? In fact, forget rose petals, they’re enough like cross-sections of the still-beating heart of a redheaded beauty sacrificed to the gods only seconds before that maybe I wasn’t even supposed to eat it, just eye it in awe.

That said, the mozzarella in carozza was also sliced too thin; as it’s basically a grilled-cheese sandwich, the bread should, IMO, squish a bit, the cheese ooze a bit, beneath its toasted surface. This was nothing but toasted surface, hence rather on the dry side, juiced up mainly by those pickled onions.

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Not so the exemplary grilled artichoke; tender even at its outermost & glistening with olive oil, it was almost as good as the best carciofi alla giudea I’ve ever had in Rome—which isn’t even a fair comparison, because the latter have the incontestable advantage of being fried.

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The above being a spot-on suggestion from our smart bartender—our smartender (whose name I wish I’d gotten, but keep your eye out for a lanky 20-something bearing a passing resemblance to the guy who played Randal in Clerks)—I asked for his thoughts on dessert, stipulating contradictorily that I didn’t actually want dessert, I wanted more cheese.

He recommended the ricotta, which was indeed as light as it could possibly be & still exist, paired, by his own accord, with a dish of strawberries in syrup—

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a sweet touch in every sense of the adjective.

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