First published September 15, 2013
Odyssey Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
603 E 6th Ave
Denver, CO 80203
A funny thing happened on the way to a longtime, favorite, hideaway restaurant on 6th Avenue in Denver: the new owner’s renovations were a bit more extensive than we thought they would be. The “new” restaurant’s ambience exceeded our comfort level so we left.
Standing at the curb, feeling forlorn and betrayed, we were trying to regain some level of composure as I gazed across the street. Lo and behold, a sideways banner, silently shouting “pasta,” was beckoning to us. Across 6th and a half-block to the west, a world of promise was possibly opening. It was Odyssey Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar.
I said, “Let’s go!” We went.
Upon entering Odyssey, my first thoughts were of a cozy eatery in West Los Angeles—Hollywood to be more specific, The Sunset Strip to be even more specific—where clean water runs down the curbs, and the restaurants are so fancy one hesitates to enter if one is, say, homeless and wandering, or on a lessor note, just not dressed appropriately. (A couple of days later, I thought of the well-worn Alexander Graham Bell adage “When one door closes, another opens.” Perfect!)
At that moment a very animated and over-the-top gracious young man introduced himself and gave us a quick tour and brief history of the restaurant and the owners—his father and himself: Executive Chef Ignazio Mulei (father) and Michael Mulei. It is a good thing.
This little bistro on East 6th Avenue is in an old, established neighborhood in a turn-of-the-century house that proudly displays exposed old-brick walls; worn wood; many wine bottles, photos and paintings; a small cave-like corner bar; white tablecloths and sometimes candles on the tables glowing in champagne glasses.
Cozy interior of Odyssey Italian Restaurant’s main dining area
A half-dozen tables, a few booths left over from other restaurants that have occupied the space, and the bar complete the main dining room. Another dining room sits up a short flight of stairs, past photos of Dean Martin and Saint Francis (F.S.) with other members of the The Rat Pack, and past a kitchen door. Here are more tables and booths, a fireplace, and a special deeply recessed space with a U-shaped booth—an intimate, private, mini dining room with curtains. Guess where I’ll be next visit, and I guarantee there will be a next visit. Three slanting tables out front (the sidewalk slants, see top photo) and another half-dozen on a raised patio are there for fresh-air romance on 6th Avenue.
We didn’t stay that first evening, but we did return for the following Monday Night Pasta Special—pasta dinner with Caesar Salad and bread for $8.99.
Let the Odyssey begin. We chose the table in the middle of the room. Not my usual favorite place but the other choices were right up in the other diners’ business, so to speak, so we drew our cards and sat down. A lovely, petite server warmly greeted us with the menus and the standard opening gambit of asking if we would like to order cocktails or wine before dinner. Sure! We both ordered a glass of wine from the bottom of the menu, the $5.00 house red for me and a $6.00 Little Black Dress white for Sue Ann.
Bang! Chef Ignazio appeared out of nowhere with an appetizer plate of calamari. As East Coast-animated and gracious as his son, Chef Ignazio told us that he’d like to have us try the calamari, on the house, and launches into a bit more history of his life and of the restaurant, speaking to us like an old friend or a relative. It was good. The calamari were perfect – velvety golden-brown, tempura-like on the outside, and on the inside the meat was not too soft and not too hard, served with a light marinara and wedges of lemon. The portion size was decent.
I was there for the pasta special, however, after perusing the menu and listening to the recitation of the night’s other special entrees, we decided to split a dish called Red Snapper Florentine with roasted seasonal vegetables (Caesar Salad & bread included ($16.00).
After savoring the calamari, sipping the wine and taking in the sweet vibe of the restaurant, the fish dish arrived. The Red Snapper was swimming in an ocean of spinach, with a few long green beans, resting on a bed of (whole-wheat, my choice) spaghetti in an Aglio E Olio sauce. The portion was very generous.
Chef Ignazio offered to share a Sambuca with us. After waiting a while, we decided that he was busy in the kitchen, so we paid the check and left knowing we’d be back.
The next Monday we returned with a guest, a food and travel writer. This time I called ahead, reserving a corner booth for 7 p.m. Once again, we were cheerfully greeted by the servers and Michael, who immediately began chatting in Italian with our guest like a long lost friend. He entertained us with stories of his family—mostly stories of the family kitchen—and there was the kissing of the hand and conversation about the due baci (the kissing of both cheeks).
Once again, Chef Ignazio appeared with a complimentary appetizer, this time a Sicilian dish of sausage slices, cheese, salami, green peppers, onions, and . . .raisins, which were the coup de grâce. The sweetness and flavor of the raisins, juxtaposed with the other spicy flavors imparted a memorable taste.
After much chatting in Italian between the guest, the chef and the son and many stories told—and we hadn’t yet ordered dinner—Chef Ignazio announced that he was going to cook the guest’s dinner tableside. OK. In the meantime, we ordered an appetizer. It was a beautiful Eggplant Caprese (tomato and mozzarella layered with grilled eggplant with a slightly crunchy outer edge). I could easily do one of these as a meal, or if I needed a bit more, I’d also order the Calamari.
Here’s Open Table’s menu for Odyssey. I don’t know if it’s complete or accurate, it’s the only one I can find since Odyssey doesn’t have an active website.
This evening two of us split the Veal Braciole, flavorful and tender. It was served over a bed of butterfly pasta. Our guest had a Sicilian Red Snapper dish, prepared tableside over a little cooking plate; Every time the chef added a splash of Captain Morgan’s rum to the pan, a flame would shoot up eighteen inches, instantly creating a show; everyone in the dining room was having a great time.
Impressive and generous entrées at Odyssey Italian Restaurant
The only thing on the negative side is the very limited parking. There may be some curbside parking across the street or around the corner, but there are no nearby parking lots, or valet service that I’m aware of. Valet would be a good addition and make the over-the-top service complete.
This post was written and assembled by William Carbone
Thank’s to Claudia Carbone for editing