Over the years dining at L’Hostaria, this unpretentious Italian restaurant in Aspen persuaded me that this is the best authentic and honest Italian food in America. No wonder since the Italian chef and owner Tiziano Gortan was working in the kitchen of Italy’s first three Michelin star restaurant under the grand chef Gualtiero Marchesi, for the rock band U2’s restaurant at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, at Casa Blanca in Sardinia, all before landing permanently in Aspen. His experience with high gastronomy trained the young chef who got back to his roots in preparing perfectly traditional Italian plates at L’Hostaria. Most served in European rather than the mamooth Amercian portions, so not much food gets wasted here, but there are some starters better to be shared.
The bar at L'Hostaria
The walls are graced by nostalgic photographs of Italy, its landscape and historic cities, but in the back dining room speed-themed paintings flash their vibrant colors on the warmly hued interior. Quirk strikes you right at the bar where two real bicycles hang high up on the beams above the heads of jolly imbibers. Packed with locals and visitors, the bar at L’Hostaria is usually buzzing. Wear anything casual and you will snugly fit in this cosy mecca of Italian food high in the altitude of the Colorado mountains. At the bar most of the menu can be ordered for a much lower price, yet from my experience the food is better and bigger at the restaurant.
L'Hostaria restaurantI love to start here either with the carpaccio in all forms from fish to meat. The thinly sliced Bresaola (Italian cured lean beef) at L’Hostaria is served over a slightly tart arugula and generously shaved parmesan. There is also the local Colorado Buffalo, minced Beef Tartar as well as the Smoked Swordfish carpaccio, all of superb quality. The picks of ingredients are in their highest league.
One of my Northern Italian favourites is the thinly sliced veal tenderloin with the soundly Italian name Vitello Tonnato. As I sliced the lean, paper thin veal and embalmed it generously in the creamy tuna sauce patted on the top, my critical palate was smitten by the tender texture and the abundance of the sauce at L’Hostaria. The chef added capers and homemade beet chips to the veal delicacy, for an unoffensive personal touch. A must for seafood connoisseurs is Insalata d’Astice, an abundant salad of raw Alascan lobster tail, grilled zucchini, artichoke puree, cherry tomato confit, that is accompanied by a duo of red and green pesto. It is large and can make for a light main course. The lobster has always been tender, fresh and the ingredients passionately emphasised the Italian soul of this filling salad. Vegetarians can always go for the ultra creamy burrata cheese delivered frequently to L’Hostaria from Puglia.
Veal Milanese at L'Hostaria in Aspen
Freshly made pastas can be order as the middle course, but better shared, unless you skied all day long. There is some fish like the grilled Branzino (seabass) on the menu, but I rarely order it, being mindful of overfishing and by-catch that is often wasted due to high demand for fish like tuna and seabass. My husband always orders here the typical Northern Italian Cotoletta alla Milanese. The Milanese schnitzel is a plate covering thinly pounded and breaded veal chop typically served over arugula and sweet cherry tomatoes. A splash of aceto balsamico works heavens with it. At L’Hostaria they would make the Milanese proud.

If you do not succumb to the focaccia in the basket constantly refilled on your table as I often do, go desserts or the Selection of Italian cheeses served with walnuts, crispy bread and honey. The Tiramissu is heavenly, the saliva-inducing Torta di Gelato al Pistacchio (pistachio ice cream cake with sabayon sauce) or the slightly tipsy Selezione di Biscotti e Vin Santo (selection of Italian cookies and sweet wine Vin Santo from Tuscany) are all worth rising your blood sugar after an active day. Just enjoy it mindfully.
The wide choice from Italian wines, often the most suitable for authentic Italian food. On one ocassion we went for a bottle of a red Barbera di Alba from Piedmont, on another a well aged Chianti from Castello di Ama accompanied our meal. Although cappuccino is usually enjoyed in the morning in Italy go for it if you desire. In the mountains though, tea feels right at any time. Just listen trully what your body needs. At L’Hostaria in Aspen everything is simply perfetto!
 Daily for dinne: 5:30–10:30 pm
 620 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611.
 +1 970 925 9022