The Italian café made its Lower Highlands, Denver debut earlier this month on the ground floor of 1801 Central Street.
Though initially planned as a Denver outpost for the more casual CMR restaurant Rusty Bucket, Marcella’s finally made the cut for this LoHi location. David Miller, president and chief operating officer of CMR, previously shared that his group wanted Marcella’s to complement and enhance the neighborhood. Consequently Marcella’s tries to straddle the line between a casual and upscale dining experience.
Two weeks into service, emerging dish highlights include the braised veal meatball, lasagne alla Bolognese, and a chocolate almond cake. The drinks, however, seem to be the hidden gem of Marcella’s menu. An extensive Italian wine list is at the forefront of the bar menu, along with a smaller selection of cocktails, beers, and sangria. Bonus: During dinner service, complimentary valet is available.
Here’s a round-up of online reviews, including the good, the bad, and the salty:
Bigger-Than-A-Softball Meatball: Marcella’s menu is “difficult to order from — only because there are so many tempting options, it’s hard to choose just one,” explained 303 Magazine. Wait staff routinely recommend the braised veal meatball as the “eighth wonder of the world.” For an additional charge, the hearty appetizer version can arrive on a bed of pasta. In all its variations, the meatball “really is heaven — crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, it breaks open with a tiny push of the fork.” The menu is ideal for large groups and loaded with crowd-pleasers like the crispy potato pizza and Sicilian caponata antipasti. [303 Magazine]
A Transplant’s Twist on Italian: Marcella’s “polished vintage” aesthetic and patio with picturesque views of downtown Denver impressed Zagat. The dining guide featured Marcella’s on its list of the hottest new spots in Denver. The veal meatball received another accolade, in addition to the fried zucchini parmesan, and mixed mushroom antipasti. Zagat shared a pro-tip with its readers that each bottle on the long wine list is available to order in quarter or half sizes. [Zagat]
A (Mild) Case of Rookie Jitters: OpenTable users generally enjoyed Marcella’s efforts, both in the back and front of the house during the restaurant’s inaugural weeks. Some diners did experience “a slow start” at first, but felt the amiable staff compensated for it. Few diners took issue with the flavor of the dishes, though one diner’s party all agreed on the food’s overall saltiness. However, the consensus remained that Marcella’s provided “excellent service” and “[f]resh, tasty food.” [OpenTable]
Fan Favorites: Facebook users collectively awarded Marcella’s an average of 4.6 stars. The few negative reviews commented on the music selection, lack of vegetarian options, and somewhat flustered staff. After receiving two already cold dishes, another user felt that the quality of products suffered under poor execution. He framed his review with the restaurant’s recent debut in mind. Diners who raved about Marcella’s casual yet tasteful atmosphere called it a flexible option for date night or family night. Even the initially disgruntled diners noted Marcella’s LoHi location as an indicator of its potential success. [Facebook]