Vail Valley dining: Italian with a ‘Heart of Gold’ |

Vail Valley dining: Italian with a ‘Heart of Gold’

Kelly Brinkerhoff
Vail Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Arriving at D’Oro in Colorado’s Vail Valley is like walking into the home of a good friend. The feeling is warm, friendly and unpretentious with a large half-moon bar, two intimate dining rooms and large bay windows that open to views of the ski area.

D’Oro, a new Italian dining experience from the owner of Ti Amo, is located on Offerson Road in Beaver Creek, in the Charter, in the space that TraMonti inhabited before.

While the D’Oro concept of a comfortable dining atmosphere and good value is similar to Ti Amo, the cuisine at the two restaurants is very different.

“Ti Amo’s recipes are from Verona in Northern Italy and based on white wine sauces,” says Ti Amo and D’Oro owner Steve Neglar. “Italian food varies so much by region in Italy and after traveling to Florence with Paulo (Busi, the restaurant’s manager) we thought it would be fun to open a Tuscan-style restaurant with a California cuisine flair.”

When you enter D’Oro, you’ll be greeted by Busi, who you will recognize as the face of Ti Amo. Busi is not just the manager at D’Oro, but a window to the unique menu items served each day. His passion for the chef specials and exotic cocktails builds anticipation for the culinary experience that awaits.

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“The idea behind D’Oro is to be excited about food,” Busi said. “The food is Italian, but it doesn’t fit the mold of your typical Italian fare and we don’t want it to. The chef is amazing. He uses unique ingredients that gives the food its own personality.”

The chef at D’Oro, Marshall Blanchard, is well known from the Golden Eagle in Beaver Creek. Blanchard’s style makes you think about what you’re eating. His dishes offer contrasting flavors that are light and fresh – a delicate combination that challenges the eater.

Like the insalata melone e ricotta salada that has an array of sweet and tart flavors with contrasting textures of arugula, watermelon, ricotta salada, cured olives and carmelized lemon vinaigrette with crispy pancetta.

“I like to use unique ingredients that are surprising,” Blanchard said. “Most people don’t know that northern Italian food uses a variety of citrus flavors. I use a lot of orange- and lemon-infused sauces on the current menu.”

The result is creative with the Tuscan Italian theme playing a supporting role to Blanchard’s elegant combination of flavors.

Before nestling in to the dining room, find a seat at the bar and experience one of D’Oro’s exotic cocktails. The martini menu offers an array of Italian-themed drinks like the “Fiorentini Negroni” martini with Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Campari, dry vermouth and tonic. The “Limoncello” martini’s slightly sweet, but complex flavors feel like you’re having dessert before you even look at the menu.

The bar menu that allows you to sample some of the chefs creations while enjoying “happy hour” deals from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. that include $5 drinks with premium well spirits like Jack Daniels, Finlandia and Herrardura and house wines by the glass.

From the bar menu try the chef’s choice bruschetta, which might include seared ahi tuna over a lemon arugula gremolata topped with fried capers and micro basil all served on lightly toasted housemade bread. Cozze con Pernod (Mussels) sauteed in a Pernod sauce over crusty bread was smooth and rich. If you want something heartier try the ribollita soup and the fettucine bolognese.

The updated dining area has vaulted ceilings with dark red painted walls and large bay windows that frame the ski mountain.

On the primi piatti dinner menu you’ll find enticing pasta dishes like the house made fettucine di vedura with delicata squash, wild mushrooms, roasted peppers and sage with shaved grana padano ($22). The dish is light, simple and sophisticated with the bright, nutty flavors of each roasted vegetable shining through the fettucine, which stands on its own and has a slightly al dente bite. You’ll find some traditional favorites on the menu like a risotto and piccata di vitello.

Blanchard served us the crispy skinned Colorado bass with roasted fennel, orange brodo, polenta and arugula ($26). The crisp skin and perfectly cooked fish really came to life in a light lemon buerre blanc-based orange broth set on top of creamy polenta hidden under wilted greens. I made a note to myself to try and recreate the roasted fennel, which had a surprisingly sweet, caramel-like smoky flavor.

For dessert try the flourless chocolate espresso cake ($8) or if you ate too much during dinner like I did, there’s the vanilla seville orange panna cotta and strawberry soup ($8), which the chef insisted “is easier to make then many people think.”

For the finale, if you’re really brave, have Busi recommend a grappa to help digest your meal. Believe me, you don’t know grappa until you’ve tried the grappa poli, a pear grappa that is supposed to miraculously clear the head upon waking the next day.

At the end of the evening you’ll feel sated and well taken care of. The restaurant’s logo, “Heart of Gold,” aptly describes the vision that Neglar and Busi have created at D’Oro. It’s all about the dedicated people behind the vision.

“We chose a team that works well together where each personality can shine through – from the chef to the wait staff and that makes our customers feel welcome,” says Busi.

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