Think of the latest outpost in Frank Bonanno‘s sprawling empire, located way down south at the Park Meadows Mall, as a breezier, more streamlined, family-friendlier Osteria Marco. Though smaller, the menu shares obvious elements with that of its older sibling, including an assortment of formaggio fatto in casa & imported salumi, a few salads & panini, & above all pizza, here baked in a custom-built Italian oven. But you also got your crudo & your fritto—that is, raw & fried—selections, & at a family-&-friends preview this week I started with one of each as a real-world compromise to starting with all of each (my appetite floating in a whole other dimension as it does).

We all reach a point where we’ve had our fill of a trend: beets, brussels sprouts, marrow, molten chocolate, Fernet Branca, what have you. Because it’s our job to cover trends as they develop, food writers tend to reach that point well before the average diner. Then again, we also get over being over things quicker, I think—we’re reminded that before they become trends & after they cease to be, they’re just ingredients that have their time & place.

Take raw tuna. There are only so many ways to prepare it; I’ve had them all countless times, & since I’m usually on a mission to try the new & unusual, I tend to ignore it. I’m glad that, this time, I didn’t, because the sliced ahi crudo was terrific topped with a salad of chopped romaine, basil & olives in caper vinaigrette. Simple, straightforward, refreshing. I also liked the pan-fried polenta pictured with it below, though if I ordered it again I’d mix it up bite-for-bite with some house-cured lonza or something! Because why not!

As for the pies, come on—Bonanno’s probably been making pizza in his sleep since he was 12. Of course the crust boasts great structure, with crunch & pop & give; of course the toppings are premium. The question that remains is one of personal preference, so I can’t offer much guidance except to say that the fresh, velvety ricotta—which appears on 4 of the 10 combos—is just dreamy; it certainly made for a meltingly delicate counterpoint to the mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & chili flakes also on the punchy Walter White, along with, of course, Blue Sky crystals—I mean blue-cheese crumbles! Heh.

Meanwhile, earthy accents highlighted the overall lusciousness of my companion’s wild-mushroom pizza with béchamel, robiola, & truffle oil,

but the pie I’m jonesing to try next combines fontina, ricotta & sausage with broccoli rabe & garlic butter, which sounds like just the right balance between salty juiciness & jolts of bitterness.

Finally, Osteria Marco’s butterscotch bread pudding has made the trek to Lone Tree intact; it’s a springy, peachy take on a typically heavy dessert.

In short, it’s heartening to see an independent chef bringing octopus, burrata & Aperol spritzes to the ‘burbs, damn the old “will it play in Peoria?” dilemma. Here’s betting it will, at that.

Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria on Urbanspoon