Throughout the history of fashion, the little black dress has become known as the essential staple in every woman’s closet. And when it comes to the Carmine’s menu, we have a staple of our own.
So what is this dress-me-up, dress-me-down, night or day ingredient we can’t live without?
The basil plant is one of the most widely known and grown herbs in the world. Often associated with Mediterranean cooking, basil is native to India, Asia and parts of Africa. As a member of the mint family, basil has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and offers a healthy dose of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese and magnesium. It’s no wonder we use it in so much of our cooking!
One of our favorite basil-touting recipes at Carmine’s is homemade gnocchi. Served in roasted pomodora sauce with kalamata olives, we toss in torn basil to maximize the dish’s flavor. We also slide some basil in our seafood dishes and use it to enliven our Panzanella (bread salad).
Basil is also the main ingredient in pesto – a mixture of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pesto appears in many places on our menu, and even just a small amount can take a dish to the next level.
Of course, we don’t limit our use of basil to food. Our new specialty cocktail, the Carmine’s Cooler, is a blend of Cruzan Light Rum, Tommasi Prosecco and fresh-squeezed lime, made perfectly refreshing thanks to muddled basil.
This summer, we encourage you to discover new ways to use basil in your own cooking (or drinking!) at home. And the next time you come in to Carmine’s, we promise there will be plenty of basil to go around.
Let’s go behind the bar with Brandi for the inside scoop on her favorite Carmine’s dish, favorite adult beverage, and her go-to wine recommendation…
Q: Carmine’s employees are known for their longevity at the restaurant. How many years have you worked at Carmine’s?
A: Compared to everyone else, I’m a newbie! I started here June 2014, so I’m coming up on one year next month.
Q: There are so many menu options at Carmine’s. If you had to pick a favorite, what would it be?
A: Honestly, I think we make the most amazing cheesecake on the planet. But aside from dessert, I’m a big fan of the Chicken Montana, Pasta alla Carmine’s, and Chicken or Veal alla Carmine’s. If you want veal, Carmine’s is the place to get it.
Q: As a bartender, you can probably mix up a drink with your eyes closed. What is your favorite drink to make behind the bar?
A: I pour an awesome glass of wine! Other than that, I really enjoy making an Old Fashioned. It’s such a classic drink and for some reason, it seems to taste better here at Carmine’s.
Q: And what about your favorite drink to enjoy after hours?
A: I’m all about the bourbon.
Q: Carmine’s has a pretty extensive wine list. If it were in stock, which wine would you recommend to a customer?
A: Try the Sor Ugo Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend from the Aia Vecchio Winery in Tuscany. If you’re looking for a smooth red wine, this is the one.
Q: Last question and probably the most important! Why do you love Carmine’s?
A: First of all, I knew about Carmine’s before I even moved to Denver! I had heard wonderful things about their management, and it all turned out to be true. They take good care of us, don’t micromanage our work, and encourage us to be ourselves and let our personalities shine. Plus, it’s always nice to enjoy a free family-style meal with your coworkers after a long night.
When we took over Carmine’s nearly ten years ago, I was surprised by the number of solicitations for donations we received. It was our standard practice at the time to give a gift certificate to just about anyone who asked. But I could see that this was not a sustainable practice and questioned the true value of these donations from a both a philanthropic and marketing perspective.
Then the recession hit in 2008, really changing the financial realities for many people. Our business declined substantially as well. As the dust was settling, I realized that we were still in good shape and felt a need to support the local community in some way and to share our good fortune with others. My wife and I debated several ideas with a real focus on how we might “feed” people in need.
This led me to the head of The Delores Project. She agreed to meet with me and hear our “brilliant” idea. I wanted to open the restaurant for one day a year and feed anyone for free. She politely told me this was not only a bad, potentially chaotic plan, but that this one day of helping would not spread very far. So our plan evolved. We chose to select as many charitable partners as we thought we could support and then design specific ways that we might help each one.
Fast forward to today. We have used our restaurant space for special gatherings, catered events, and hosted dining evenings where substantial portions of the proceeds are directed to our partners. Each fall, we entertain presentations from organizations that ask for our support. We are naturally drawn to certain types of organizations. Specifically, we have worked with groups dedicated to homelessness, children and schools. We try to determine if our support will be important to the recipient either financially or in a way that helps to build up an organization. We want to evaluate each organization for their ability to deliver to those in need and use our donation wisely.
This month, we are proud to support the work of two local organizations – Project Angel Heart and The Denver Waldorf School. On Tuesday, April 28, we are hosting a fundraising dinner for The Denver Waldorf School and will be donating at least 50% of the evening’s food sales to the school. My three children attended Waldorf Schools from preschool through high school, so l am acquainted with the wonderful work done by dedicated teachers in this system. Not only that, but The Denver Waldorf School moved back to our neighborhood in 2014 and is celebrating 40 years in Denver! We wish to support their continued growth and capacity to serve children.
Then on Thursday, April 30, we are joining over 250 restaurants throughout Denver and Boulder to participate in Dining Out for Life to support Project Angel Heart – a nonprofit whose mission is to deliver nutritious meals to Coloradans with life-threatening illnesses. Save the date to dine out with us and we’ll donate 25% of the evening’s food sales to Project Angel Heart!
We hope to see you soon, and thank you for your continued support.
Once it was standard practice for a restaurant to purchase wine with the intention of aging before presenting to the consumer. But today, market pressures make this quite rare as the cost of inventory, space, and knowledge limit the opportunity.
Here at Carmine’s, we strive to offer a simple, uncomplicated wine list composed of all Italian wines (which can be very confusing to consumers). We are committed to serving the finest wines we offer after some extended aging in an effort to show the true sense of Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino wines, for example.
Recently, we were offered the current vintage (vintage = the year the grapes are harvested) of these “big three” to add to our wine cellar. We tasted 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages. We try to project development of these “young” wines so that they can be offered in a rotation with other purchased wine when they are more ready for the consumer.
Some of these same wines are on our wine list today from the 2001, 2004 and 2006 vintage! We will try to save a couple of bottles from special vintages for those times when a consumer is really searching for something special. So we typically have a few bottles of quite special and more aged wines when requested. This category represents a small corner of our total wines sold, but it occupies a large portion of interest and intrigue as we get to follow these wines in their development.
Next time you dine with us, feel free to inquire about the following wines:
Cogno “Vigna Elena” Barolo 2004
Allegrini Amarone 2006
Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2006
Pe’re Allesandro “Vigna Giaia” Barbaresco 2001
Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2006
Last week, our well-traveled Assistant Manager Stephen hosted a Tour of Italy dinner and wine tasting based on his recent adventures in Italy. We had an amazing turnout, with a little over 20 guests filling up our back room to enjoy an evening of culinary indulgence!
As the group enjoyed their first beverage – Borgo Magredo Prosecco – Stephen shared his international travel tips, including the best times to visit Italy. Going in the spring? Expect a bit of rain. Summer is typically busy, as it’s a popular vacation time. Love wine? Experience the fall harvest! And of course, you can’t pass up the skiing when you visit in winter.
Stephen then moved on to explaining the geography of Italy, which is very important when considering the country is one of the most popular wine growing regions in the world, and the 4th largest producer. The various climates and soils of Italy allow for a wide variety of grapes to be grown. Tuscany has your Chianti. Find your favorite white wines in the northeast. And look out for Sicily! This area is up and coming in the wine world.
All of this wine talk wouldn’t be complete without some Italian food, so guests were served Antipasti Carmine’s alan Rolatini along with samples of two white wines – Torre Rosazza Savignon and Umani Ronchi “Casal di Serra”.
Stephen then moved on to serving House and Caesar salads, which were paired with a rose wine – Rivera Pungirosa, and a lighter red – Vignamaggio Chiati Classico. And for the main course? Bolognese, Pasta Carcio, Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Pazzo with two full-bodied red wines – Giacosa Fratelli Barbaresco and Michelle Castellani “Colli Christi”. Delizioso!
Finally, the evening concluded with dessert and a sweet Moscato – Marenco “Pineto”. Lots of food, lots of wine. Now that’s what we call a Tour of Italy.
***Wine buying tip: All the wines listed above are available at any liquor store in Colorado. If we have access to it, so does anyone purchasing in the state. The rare exception is a wine so hard to get your hands on, it winds up being purchased by restaurants exclusively. Wherever you shop for wine can get these for you. They may ask you to purchase a case if they don’t carry it. If so, don’t be afraid to ask for 10-15% off which is the standard discount on case purchases.
Mark your calendars for February 20 – March 1 as we celebrate Denver’s culinary scene during Denver Restaurant Week. Bring your friends and family together to enjoy a multi-course family style meal for just $30 per person.
Choose one of each:
Tour of Italy
Ravioli alla Vodka
Sausage and Peppers
Zuppa di Mussels
Entrees (all served family size)
White or Red Clam Sauce
Chicken alla Carmine’s
Baked Ziti w/Italian Sausage
Baked Ziti w/Bolognese
Baked Ziti w/Vegetables
Baked Ziti w/Meatballs
Seafood Fra Diavolo
Three Layer Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Chip Cannolis
New York Style Cheesecake
We also have vegetarian and gluten-free options available!
Want to really feel like a winner during Denver Restaurant Week? Enter The Pursuit of Culinary Perfection Contest by Lexus and you could win a Passport to the City for you and a guest! Tour the city in a luxurious Lexus, enjoy chef’s table seating at The Nickel, and a night’s stay at the Hotel Teatro. Enter to win here.
Tuesday, September 2 Carmine’s on Penn will host our fourth dinner to support The Delores Project. Please join us in this important evening. Last year’s event raised over $8500 for The Delores Project. We will offer many of Carmine’s favorites in a three course dinner served family style. The price is $45 per person and The Delores Project will receive $30 of this amount. We will also donate at least half of beverage proceeds. Employees are donating their hourly wages as well. The Delores Project has served women in need on the Denver area for over ten years providing much needed services not the least of which is housing.
Carmine’s on Penn and Little Carmine’s Italian Sandwiches will close on July 4. We will Share the holiday with our families and hope you enjoy the day with yours. Please join us for our regular schedule on Saturday. Remember our patio is one of the finest locations to enjoy summertime dining. Ciao Down at Carmine’s!
Carmine’s on Penn recently celebrated our first 20 years of serving Family Style Italian Food in Central Denver. We are looking forward to many more. To share our birthday with us come in on Tuesday evenings. We are offering a 20 year promotion. 20 Years, 2 people, $20 each to share dinner. Choose from four salads and ten pasta entrees to share. Think about Chicken Montana, White Clam Sauce, Pork Polenta Ragu and more. Ciao Down with Carmine’s!