An exploration of Amerigo Market
Italian food with history
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 00:01
Had German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller thought differently when he was making a map of the world back in 1507, we might be singing “God Bless Vespucci” right now. And if you passed by the unassuming facade of Amerigo Delicatus Restaurant & Market without stopping for a bite, you could be missing out on one heck of a lunch. Coincidence is a funny thing, ain’t it?
What’s hardly coincidental is how Amerigo channels its homespun, laissez-faire attitude into seriously good Italian food. Much like Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer who gave the restaurant—and America—its name, it’s stumbled onto a good thing. Owner Iain Chisholm designed the menu and built much of the 30-seat space by hand, with a vision of a neighborhood Italian restaurant, market, and sandwich shop all in one.
Amerigo is oddly situated in a former auto-repair shop that resides in the nebulous area where Ballpark and RiNo come together—the restaurant is just feet from Mike Whiting’s iconic blue rhino sculpture—and that mixed-up identity is ingrained in the restaurant itself. When the clock strikes four, the menu takes a hard right turn from simple sandwiches and salads to more challenging fare like porchetta and oxtail cavatelli. The only constants are quality, house-made ingredients and reasonable prices across the board.
If only lunch shared the same creativity as dinner, which offers intriguing plates like a root vegetable salad ($4) with parsnips and a prosecco vinaigrette, and fried polenta ($6) with roasted duck and collard greens. But you’re still cheating yourself if you miss out on Chisholm’s sandwiches, made with solid stuff like house-made sausage and briny Pecorino Romano.
Think hearty baguettes with an angelic balance between crumble and sponge. Think rich house-made mayo oozing through the gaps. Think sopressata and generous slices of nutty Fontina in the Salumi sandwich ($7.50). Think all of this paired with a side of just-fried kettle chips. And consider, if you will, the pasta salad, ($7.50, $3.95 on the side) which less resembles your average Safeway deli case disaster than a thoughtful mélange of chewy pasta, greens, and reduced balsamic and garlic extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette. But here’s a pro tip, Amerigo: stop stuffing your items with enough yellowing Romaine lettuce to dull your sharp flavors.
The bill for two sandwiches, sides, dessert and San Pellegrino sodas came to about 26 bucks—not half bad for a casual, yet well-composed noon repast with friendly service. Walk into Amerigo and more than likely it’ll be Chisholm’s wife, Anna, serving you that dark chocolate brownie ($1.95). A white-haired woman laughs that “if you’d waited five minutes, you could have had chocolate frosting!” Chisholm rolls her eyes. “That’s my mother-in-law.”
That sense of family and hominess is something restaurants much older than Amerigo fail to bring to the plate. Though the Amerigo crew could benefit from a little less looseness, it’s a place that would make you want to stop in for a salad or to take home a container of that awesome pasta when you’re on a lonely voyage down Larimer Street.