Editor’s note: This story first ran in the summer edition of EAT Magazine.
Beaver Creek is hopping when we arrive at Toscanini, the resort’s venerable Italian eatery. The ice rink is swirling with skaters of all ages, fire pits are lit and almost all of the rink-side real estate is occupied. It’s not a hardship to leave the bright bustle, though, as Toscanini’s excellent location and vantage point allow us to continue observing the circling crowd from our cozy table.
Settling in with wine lists and menus, a quick scan of the restaurant reveals families with young children and couples, clusters of friends and multi-generational groups, laughing and enjoying, exuding the conviviality and joy that embodies the Italian lifestyle. It’s like entering a party that you might not have been specifically invited to, but are welcome all the same.
A visit from Lana Gordon, general manager of Toscanini, only reaffirms this feeling. Gordon started at Toscanini as a busser 10 years ago and now lends her talents as manager and wine aficionado. Her enthusiasm is contagious, leading us to try wines that are out of our comfort zones, such as the Il Rose di Casanova from La Spinetta, a rosé made from Sangiovese and Prugnolo Gentile grapes. It’s well-balanced and delicious, offering none of that cloying sweetness that accompanies some rosés.
Tyler Cyre, executive chef at Toscanini, seems to have taken his place at the restaurant much like the proverbial son. Having moved to Vail in 1999 and apprenticing at local favorites like Zino’s, he left the nest to earn his culinary chops at notable restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, including Babbo and Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills. He takes a break from repairing the dishwasher (as in all families, everyone does their part) to say hello and explain his move back to the mountains.
“I just love being here,” Cyre said. “I went to New York and LA to learn how to be a chef, but when I had the opportunity to come back out here, I jumped at the chance.”
Diners at Toscanini are reaping the rewards from his multitude of experiences, from the homemade pastas such as the classic linguini bolognese, which can be enjoyed as deconstructed lasagna, to the chicken alla matone.
“I learned this dish in New York,” Cyre explains. “It’s the best chicken you’ll order out.”
It’s not an unfounded statement: as some loath to order chicken in a restaurant, this roasted version with pan gravy, lemon, crushed red pepper and chive spaetzle reaffirms the notion that if a chef can cook chicken well, then he can do almost anything. Even the spaetzle, which is commonly assumed to be an Austrian or German dish, is well considered. “Spaetzle was originally Italian,” Cyre said. “The Germans appropriated it and made it smaller.”
Duly noted. Education and satiation — what more could a patron wish? Perhaps a sampling of house-made sorbetti and gelati, if there’s a few nooks and crannies to be filled.
And a few turns on the ice rink to end the evening.