Benzina | Denver, CO | 4.6/5 Dishes
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Located in an old Muffler shop on Colfax, Benzina translates to "Gasoline" and brings the fire in this small Italian eatery with a mid-century modern vibe
Benzina restaurant has spectacular mid-century lines (photo from Benzina Instagram)
Food | 4.9 Dishes
Executive Chef Daniele Bolongini (acorn) has fueled quite the fire with this quaint, yet powerful menu at Benzina. The restaurant opened with consulting executive chef Brian Lockwood (Eleven Madison Park and Frasca Food and Wine) assisting to create a wonderful opening menu this summer. With 20 years of experience in the kitchen, Daniele was ready to open this gem and bring flavors from his home of Italy to Denver.
The menu is small, but that is okay. I always like to say, "Quality not quantity. If you have a smaller menu, you're more likely to succeed". You have options to order a la carte from the menu that has 3 Apps, 2 Salads, 2 pastas, 2 meat dishes and 5 pizza options.
Arancini- safron risotto, gorgonzola, black pepper -poppyseed honey
We started our meal with an order of Arancini, which was out of this world good. This was different than other versions I have had- The subtle gorgonzola flavor combined with a strong safron risotto have this taster exceptional complexity when mixed with the black pepper honey. The perfect mixture of sweet, savory and spice to kick off our meal. Next, we shared the Smoked Trout Cesar and Crispy Squid. The salad features little gem lettuce, bread crumbs and parmesan. The Cesar was perfectly dressed and the unique flavor of the in-house smoked Trout added a great compliment to the peppery plate. The calamari dish was outstanding, featuring a calabrian chili and sesame glaze sauce below the Squid, which had a crunchy texture and spicy asian hint to the dish.
Smoked Trout Cesar Salad- Little gem lettuce
Crispy Squid - Calabrian Chili & Sesame glaze
Our next course was house-made Pappardelle pasta, featuring braised oxtail, squash, pecorino cheese and chestnut. The savory flavor of this pasta is absolutely amazing. The pasta was wide, hand cut and prepared excellently. It was cooked to the right chewiness and the fat from the oxtail provided the right mouthfeel for the pasta dish.
Pappardelle - oxtail, squash, pecorino and chestnuts
Last, but certainly not least, we enjoyed the Mushroom pizza, this pizza rivals some of the best Neapolitan style in Denver and could be crowned king in next years pizza contest. YES, KING.
Let's start with the crust. Their dough is aged 3 days to produce a unique fermented yeasty flavor that will have you finishing ALL your crust. The flour's mouthfeel is something I have never experienced in a pizza. It's crunchy, yet soft and it captures the wood fired oven flavor and I can't wait to get back. They chose Asian Shiitake and Maitake Mushrooms which bring a wonderful earthiness to the pizza. Finished with black garlic and Taleggio cheese, @benzinadenver pizza will blow you away.
Mushroom Pizza, featuring Maitake, Shiitake and Taleggio cheese
Drinks | 4.2 Dishes
Their drink menu is simple and straight forward, but well put together like the food menu. They feature beers on draft and tap from all over Colorado as well as the west coast and Italian after dinner Amaros as well. @benzinadenver has a great wine list. They have a selection of wine from Italy, California and Oregon to compliment their food and offer several great selections by the glass. Their cocktail list is creative- We enjoyed a glass of Prosecco on the house (after all it was our anniversary), and we had a few Act 1735 Gin cocktails. It was an excellent drink- so nice we did it twice.
The 1735 has Beefeater Gin, house made Lemoncello, lemon, fennel and is garnished with fennel flowers which is gorgeous to see.
Service | 4.6 Dishes
The staff at Benzina welcome you to the restaurant and everyone that touched the table wanted to make sure we were enjoying ourself. They were generous to offer us Prosecco for our anniversary and mentioned it to us upon our arrival. Our server was excellent- he naturally coursed out our meal at his suggestion which helped us pace ourselves and not feel rushed. When he was busy, someone else would run drinks or food to the table and they re-marked our silverware and plates at each course. They certainly have their act together when it comes to casual, yet great service. Our table was wiped down and remained well put together. We felt welcomed and can't wait to return.
Ambiance | 4.6 Dishes
Benzina's mid-century modern design is striking when you pull up to the restaurant off Colfax. They work with the buildings slim design well to create a comfortable atmosphere. It's not too loud, nor too quiet and its not too dark, yet well lit so that you don't have to squint to read the menu. It fits the food- modern, yet comforting- its a well rounded environment. The Kitchen is at the heart of the restaurant with the beautiful wood-fired oven and open kitchen that allows you to catch chefs tossing dough in the air. The bar looks more like a library, almost European, and really great. It reminds me of being in Italy. The sprawling patio is primed to have a booming vibe when the weather is nice and there is not a bad seat in the house.
Overall | 4.6/5 Dishes
@Benzinadenver is a fantastic restaurant that will be here for years to come! This place is like a convertible, it will become your favorite spot to get a beer and pizza or dress it up for a nice date night on the town for a complete dining experience. Fun fact, they have a full brunch menu on weekends and I can't wait to try it!
Reservations available to make on Open table