Il Mago offers artisan pizzas and hand-rolled pastas in Edwards

New restaurant at Edwards Corner sources good food and showcases it simply for the best flavor

The pizza crust used at Il Mago begins with a sour dough starter and is fermented for 36 hours.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Fresh pizza and pasta, interesting wines, oysters and a little rock and roll is what you’ll experience at Il Mago in Edwards.

The eatery opened in July and is gaining acclaim from those who frequented the space when it was Craftsman restaurant and those who are enjoying the concept for the first time.

For nearly seven years, Craftsman had the popular sandwiches-and-more spot at Edwards Corner where people would stand in line, even when it extended outside on a cold night, just to get the goods. Il Mago may be the sister restaurant of Craftsman, which moved across the street into the former Gore Range Brewery location last October, but it’s sure to stand on its own after the word gets out about the pride and care that goes into a menu that is quite different from its predecessor.

To understand Il Mago, you need to first meet executive chef, Chris Schmidt. His passion for a superior product, service and quality is what has led him to success so far. Born in Florida and raised in Atlanta, Ga., Schmidt literally grew up in the business with his parents both involved in the restaurant industry.

Since middle school, he knew he wanted to be a chef. In his teens he was too young to work at a local country club in Atlanta so he got a job at Waffle House.

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“I was flipping eggs and waiting tables and eventually the chef from the country club called me and I was finally able to get the job there,” Schmidt said.

He worked the fine dining line all throughout high school and won a culinary competition during college and received a full scholarship to Johnson & Wales University.

“They gave me options of where I wanted to go and I chose the Denver campus and moved there in 2005,” Schmidt said.

Chris Schmidt knew he wanted to be a chef since he was in middle school. Schmidt is the executive chef at Craftsman and Il Mago in Edwards.

After finishing up at Johnson & Wales, Schmidt went to New York City and back to Atlanta before returning to Colorado to work at Sweet Basil in 2013 and was there for about six years. He teamed up with one of Sweet Basil’s owners, Matt Morgan to form Craftsman. When Craftsman had the opportunity to move locations across the street there was room for Il Mago to come to fruition.

“We always talked about doing the artisan pizzas and the hand-rolled pastas. It’s delicious food, everybody loves it and it’s fun to make,” Schmidt said. “We’ve been working on the pizza dough forever. It’s naturally leavened with a house sourdough starter, we ferment it for 36 hours so it’s nice and slow, which gives it plenty of time for flavor development and to break everything down to make it easier to digest.”

Schmidt sources the best ingredients he can. The flour is all organic and from Central Milling in Utah. They buy mozzarella curd from Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, Vt. and they pull it in-house daily.

“We take a lot of pride in what we’re producing and what we’re putting out there,” Schmidt said.

Some of his favorite pizzas on the menu right now are the Supernaut, which is their version of spicy pepperoni with crushed tomatoes, scamorza, garlic and Calabrian chili. Elliot’s Jam pizza is named after Schmidt’s youngest son and is a white pizza that has talleggio, fresh pulled mozzarella, Parmesan and fig jam topped with 18-month prosciutto and fresh arugula.

In addition to pizzas, Il Mago serves up homemade pastas.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The house-made pasta provides the canvas for many artistic creations that feature farm-fresh ingredients available seasonally.

“The tagliolini that is on the menu currently is delicious. It’s a really thin egg noodle that we sauté with halibut that we buy fresh and we slowly poach it in olive oil. We add to it cherry tomatoes, shaved garlic, chili, lemon juice and fresh basil,” Schmidt said.

Il Mago is also a great place to grab a bite to eat. Try their charcuterie board or burrata and don’t forget about the oysters.

“I love oysters and think it’s a great bar snack and we source the best oysters we can get,” Schmidt said.

Along with utilizing the best ingredients, Schmidt also strives to expand palates and educate those coming to the restaurant. His wine list is predominantly Italian, and he wants to share their varietals and encourage his patrons to try something new.

“You’re not going to see a buttery California Chardonnay or Cabs or Oregon Pinot Noirs, nothing against those wines, but you can get those anywhere. Here, we want to really showcase some fun wines and educate ourselves as well as the guests because it’s a whole new world for me and I’ve had a blast really learning about these producers, the varietals and the taste of the wine,” Schmidt said.

The new Il Mago concept has been fun for Schmidt, but it has also been a lot of work. Trying to open up Craftsman in its new location last October and then diving straight into a new restaurant concept was a lot to handle. Luckily, Schmidt was able to lean on the skills of fellow chef and owner of The Rose restaurant, Bryan Redniss.

“He spearheaded the whole redesign and construction and just did a phenomenal job. Working with a friend and somebody that understands me and kind of has the same vision and upbringing, I think we were able to get a lot more character into this space,” Schmidt said.

Il Mago is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Schmidt expresses himself on the menu but pay close attention to some of the fun artwork like the “Goodfellas” painting behind the bar. And what’s with the name? That’s another story.  

“We changed the name about halfway through the construction process. We were listening to some vinyl one night and the song “The Wizard” from Black Sabbath came on and we translated it to Italian and Il Mago was born. It’s nothing super meaningful or deep, it’s just that we liked it and thought it was fun and a great way to create that rock and roll element that we love.”

Bon appetit and rock on at Il Mago, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m.

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