Ghibellina, 14UP

(See the July 26, 2013, Review here.)

Ghibellina seems to always be crowded, and justifiably so. The other evening, I was able to get the last bar seat, and had a fantastic dinner.

This is not at all specific to Ghibellina, but the price of wines by the glass in this town is nudging me back to being the beer lover I once was. A draft of Ellie’s Brown Ale ($9 for 20 ounces) by Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, CO is another example of my recent love affair with Brown Ales. Whenever I see one, I pretty much stop looking at the menu.

Happy hour had just ended, and the menus had been taken from the bar, so there was no temptation to order a bargain pizza. I’m glad this happened because I had the good fortune to try the Pollo Ruspante Al Mattone ($23) – a free-range, very high-quality chicken cooked under a brick in a thin, rich, brown sauce that – were it not for its lack of viscosity – could have been some type of mole. Whatever it was, and I have no idea what it was, it was fantastic – seemingly containing chocolate, cinnamon, etc., but not at all sweet. Jonathan, if you see this, could you chime in and describe this wonderful sauce?

And also your chicken which is obviously of very high quality. With this level of quality comes a higher price tag, and this $23 dish was served a la carte - no vegetable, no starch. I’m glad it was, too, because I got a chance to order Ghibellina’s excellent Cavolo Nero Toscano ($8), a plate of sautéed black Tuscan kale that was cooked and seasoned to perfection.

Between the two dishes, I had virtually no carbs (except for the beer, of course), and the portions were hearty enough where I took about 1/3 of the food home (in a very environmentally friendly container which was right there at the bar) and enjoyed the rest of it later that evening. Despite the healthy portions, I’d bet this meal – beer not withstanding – had under 1,000 calories, and yet could not have been any more satisfying.

Ghibellina is being raised to the #1 slot in 14UP in the Dining Guide. Do you folks realize just how good this restaurant is? Due to the sheer size of its menu, I award this ranking with some trepidation, partly because I just haven’t plumbed its depths enough to be confident, but mainly because the ranking is only going to last for one day: the next night, I had the two best things I’ve ever eaten in 14UP – so Ghibellina will be falling to the #2 slot, at least temporarily, until I can sort through this.

But rankings are just a bunch of arbitrary malarky – each restaurant has its own strengths and weaknesses, and Ghibellina is one the greatest restaurants restaurants on 14th Street. Jonathan Copeland, if you’ll recall, was Chef de Cuisine at Palena Cafe, and worked under Frank Ruta for many years. He is a great cook, and the food his kitchen is putting out – including the pizzas – is worthy of a special visit. If you haven’t tried Ghibellina, you should, pronto.

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