Even though Woodland Park has experienced an influx of new eateries in the last year, many locals have craved for a prime culinary favorite often missing in the Teller high country: Italian food.
This search, however, has now ended.
Luckily to the delight of many, one of the city’s first ever restaurants that offers authentic Italian cuisine, opened its doors in the Gold Hill South Shopping Center in Woodland Park last month. the reaction has been outstanding. In the first two weeks of Mountainara Cucina Italiana opening its doors, local social media pages were filled with positive reviews touting the food as amazing.
The eatery offers both “Americanized” Italian dishes as well as some authentic choices. The eatery also serves a large variety of Italian wines, desserts, Italian beers, and Italian-style espresso.
The restaurant’s owners, Elizabeth and Roberto Calcagno ,spent much of their lives in Italy before they decided to make the big move to Colorado. The family started in Colorado Springs, but then they eventually relocated to Florissant.
When they first moved to the area, Calcagno said that he did not want to get back into the restaurant industry. He said that after the COVID-19 pandemic, he got tired of being in the restaurant industry due to the increase in staffing issues.
But after living here for some time, he quickly heard the public outcry of locals wanting an Italian food restaurant. “I went to the barber shop in town and the barber started putting a seed in my head and every time I went in there he said, ‘We need an Italian restaurant in town,’” the restaurant owner said. “The seed started growing inside of my mind and it became a huge tree and this is it.”
The entrepreneur found the empty restaurant unit in the shopping center and started getting to work. He remodeled the building’s dining room and spent a lot of time cleaning and revamping the kitchen to fit his needs.
Calcagno first started working in the restaurant industry when he was seven years old and living in a small town in northwestern Italy. During his life, he travelled all over Italy learning how to prepare the famous dishes of each region.
At one point he even became a master at cooking Neapolitan pizzas. After working in the industry for several years, Calcagno went to college and got a degree in architecture.
But he decided that he enjoyed preparing food more than he enjoyed designing buildings, and went back into the hospitality industry. The entrepreneur has owned eateries in England and one in Colorado Springs.
As far as the food goes, the family-run business offers a variety of delicious options at reasonable prices. “We do almost everything in house,” Calcagno said. “We are very proud of course of our pasta dishes. Pasta is the main thing in Italy, everywhere you go you find pasta. I created entrees, some are very regional and some are very American-Italian food.”
For dishes like Fettucini Alfredo and Chicken Parmesan that did not originate in Italy, Calcagno still serves them, but cooks them in an authentic Italian style. Amongst the more popular entrees, Mountainara also offers some authentic dishes that people could get in Italy.
“We have some very particular dishes like the Tajarin al Tartufo which has black truffles from Piedmont in Italy and a gnocchi, which is a potato pasta that we pair with creamy gorgonzola, walnuts and pear,” Calcagno explained. “One of my best sellers when it comes to pasta is the ravioli alla zucca which is a butternut squash filled with fresh sage and asparagus.”
When it comes to entrees the restaurateur said that the Porchetta d’Ariccia has also been a good seller. This dish consists of a pork roast hand-rolled with rosemary inside and then it gets cooked for a minimum of four hours.
Mountainara’s menu also consists of some seafood items. The Gamberoni alla griglia consists of king prawns grilled the “Italian way” and the Tonno alla ligure combines seared ahi tuna, Ligurian olives, lemon zest, and pine nuts.
Calcagno is also very proud of his specialty, Acqua pazza walleye, and he said he has gotten a great response from this dish. He imports fresh sea water from Spain that gets filtered for human consumption and then poaches the walleye in the salt water.
The eatery’s owner said that the business is family-operated and that customers may see his young children in the restaurant from time to time. He also said that he is grateful for the staff that he currently has employed, but that he is still looking for more help.