Mazzola’s Italian Diner
917 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs, CO 80487 (in, or rather under, the Hotel Bristol)
Dinner: 5pm – close.
The concierge at the Sheraton assured us that Mazzola’s would be open on Christmas. Given the celestial reviews, we got down there early to ensure they had a table for 10.
Closed. (Note to self: have the concierge fired. 😉
So we settled for Old Town Pub (see previous entry) on Christmas, and qb, squaw, and the boys gave Mazzola’s a try on Saturday night.
Oh, how worth the wait it was. Five stars for a family meal; we all had water, so qb can’t speak to the wine list.
You really can’t beat a basement diner under an old Colorado frontier hotel, especially when the crystalline air is -3F and the company is good. We were charmed the minute we opened the front door and nearly fell down the stairs right beneath us. Noisy sounds of Chianti-lubricated fellowship welcomed us into the low-ceilinged, cozy little eatery. It had maybe 10-12 tables, not much more than that. Specials were on a blackboard in the back, and the five of us sat down at a table for four. (Reservations? Yes, if you play heads-up ball. They only accept them for groups larger than 6, and then only between 5-5:30 p.m. After 5:30 p.m., it’s first come, first serve.)
Service was friendly, fast, accommodating, and accurate. The manager is a hands-on type, and it shows.
Opening was a focaccia-like flatbread, though not as thick, with an herb-infused, extra-virgin olive oil and a subtly garlicked white-bean hummus. There were two green olives and two cloves of roasted garlic bathing in the almost kelly-green nectar. We ordered seconds, then thirds.
Silas’ spaghetti Bolognese featured beef, pancetta, and ground pork in a wine-fortified, deep red sauce. Age 10, he couldn’t appreciate it to the full, but when he turned his head, qb made sure it was up to snuff. Densely flavored, with more meat than sauce. It came with a monster meatball, perhaps the size of a major-league horsehide, maybe 5 oz. in all. Off the charts comfort food.
Speaking of comfort food, qb had the evening’s special, a pork osso buco on a futon of the dreamiest, most delicate polenta. The pork was braised in tomato, garlic, mushroom, and herbs – tender, juicy, and perhaps just a touch greasy. Steamed broccoli redeemed the calorie count.
Isaac ordered a beautiful calzone with bacon and pepperoni. (Comfort food, right?) qb didn’t taste it, but Isaac says it was pretty good. He has high standards, so “pretty good” is no mean feat.
qb’s squaw had canneloni filled with chicken, sausage, mushroom and ricotta in a tomato-cream sauce. She would only let qb have one bite of this unexpectedly delicate entree. There were too many flavors to count, and one keynote that qb just couldn’t quite put his finger on – almost French-Asian, but perfectly at home here. It would have taken several bites to decode, but Jenn was too selfish or too hungry to let that happen.
Samuel decided his arteries needed reinforcing as much as the rest of ours, so he ordered fettucine Alfredo with shrimp. First things first: steaming hot, which was a welcome relief (see our Old Town Pub experience) and a sine qua non of cream-based sauces. Other than one shrimp that was not quite done all the way through, he polished it off lickety-split. qb can’t vouch for it, but Sam’s a pretty accomplished foodie, if a bit timid; I take him at his word.
Mazzola’s (whose owners also operate Rex’s over at the Holiday Inn – see qb’s review earlier this page) and La Cantina were definitely on the must-return list. You will pay for food anywhere in the Steamboat area, so it might as well be fabulous. At these two restaurants, and at Rex’s for breakfast, it definitely is.
Safely home in Amarillo, we can say that this was the best family vacation we’ve ever taken, due in no small part to the food scene. And the 10″ of fresh powder. And the skilled instructors in the Ski and Snowboard School. And the live, late-night jazz in the Sheraton lounge overlooking the Christy Express lift. And Big Head Todd and the Monsters. And draft DDP at the Bagel Company (and, as qb later discovered, at the Kum and Go convenience stores on the west end of town and in Kremmling).
BTW: Kum and Go stores offer a Texas-sized 64-oz. option. Glory!