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Cattivella Brings Thoughtful Food and Italian Exploration to Stapleton

Praise for Chef Elise Wiggins’ welcoming space, menu and exuberance

Chef Wiggins’ personal “dream come true” is a sign of Stapleton’s shifting status as a culinary destination, according to critics
Adam Larkey

Chef Elise Wiggins’ newest restaurant name, Cattivella, translates to “naughty girl” in Italian. Wiggins implemented this bold and brazen attitude into her latest project. The Italian restaurant is the former Panzano chef’s prized personal venture and a self-described “dream come true” for the Stapleton resident. The space is comfortable but modern, with an exhibition kitchen, butcher’s corner and Acunto wood-burning pizza ovens that tackle a variety of dishes inspired by the diverse regions of Italy. Wiggins translated stories she’s discovered into the dishes on the menu as a culmination of her culinary knowledge. There was early buzz for the focaccia di Recco, a delicious dish from the Recco packed with simple, sustainable ingredients. Below is a summary of online reviewers’ takes on the new staple in Stapleton.

Ambition and Execution: 5280’s “Eat and Drink” team had a hard time putting their finger on what exactly makes Cattivella shine, “when Cattivella does so many things well.” The “dinner-party-esque” ambiance offers guests rotating glimpses of handcrafted food, community conversations, and the staff’s preparations. At the city’s largest chef counter, diners can watch Wiggins’ and the team prepare the dishes where “[e]verything is on display.” However, Wiggins’ personable service and handcrafted style are what entice critic Denise Mickelsen. Whether you’re a jaded foodie or a new customer, Wiggins likes to share the stories behind Cattivella’s dining experience. Mickelsen notes that those without advanced culinary knowledge can fully observe, taste, appreciate and explore the “divine” pastas and dishes curated at Cattivella. [5280]

The Start of Stapleton: The Denver Post’s dedicated arts and entertainment section, The Know, featured the restaurant in a favorable preview this April. The addition to the Eastbridge development, which now houses other hot restaurants like Concourse, Los Chingnones and others, sets the neighborhood’s status as a burgeoning “culinary destination.” Cattivella’s menu - equal parts “cheesy,” “carby,” and “glorious” - is punctuated by notes of saltiness and meatiness. The thoughtful menu is “everything you want out of an Italian restuarnt and all you’d expect from Wiggins.” Like the Eater Denver team, The Know recommends sampling the focaccia di Recco appetizer to start your meal on a happy note. [The Know]

Wiggins’ “Long-overdue solo venture:” The culinary minds at Zagat have been waiting for Wiggins’ to spread her wings in her own space. Cattivella is featured in the “11 Must-Try Italian Restaurants in Denver Right Now” and “Hottest Restaurants in Denver” features. The publication asserts Wiggins’ cooking is as crafty and jubilant as hoped for and that “the proof is in the polenta (and the pizza, and the pappardelle).” The kitchen staff’s execution maintains the quality of their culinary performance that “crackles with electricity” throughout the restaurant. Must-order items include the tagliata di manzo and torta Caprese. Zagat also offers an insider tip: The couple of seats at the salumi station are “the best in the house.” [Zagat]

A Vision, Realized: Westword, already a fan of Wiggins’ culinary creations at Panzano, praises the chef’s creation of a restaurant that, “true to her vision,” mirrors her experiences working, eating and traveling across Italy. The quality of Cattivella’s housemade pastas and breads separates the space from bistros and trattorias popping up across Denver. Carefully crafted “little touches” reflect Wiggins’ sense of community and extensive knowledge of Italian foods. From a stashed cooler that dry-ages beef and small bites offered at the chef’s counter, Wiggins crafts a hospitable and welcoming environment. Wiggins will also host cooking classes that made her a star at Panzano, to the delight of diners and critics alike. [Westword]

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