Bettola Bistro Press Release
Denver chef Samir Mohammad opens Bettola Bistro in the former Cody’s Café & Bar space in Aurora
DENVER, CO (July 11, 2018) — Samir Mohammad, along with his fiancée Rachel Firestone, are thrilled to announce the opening of Bettola Bistro, an intimate, spirited and passionately hospitable Italian restaurant located at 10253 East Iliff Avenue in Aurora. Formerly Cody’s Café & Bar, the warm and inviting 40-seat space opened on June 19.
Mohammad, whose impressive culinary pedigree includes executive chef positions at the Village Cork, Lala’s, Pesce Fresco and Black Pearl, recently returned to the Mile High City after a stint in Breckenridge, where he was the opening chef of Artisan 206. “I missed the Denver culinary scene, the diversity of food choices and the camaraderie of chefs that makes the city’s dining climate truly feel like an extended family,” says Mohammad, noting that his longtime friendship with Bettola Bistro owner Sue Smith was another deciding factor in his move back to Denver. “Sue and I have known each other for a long time, and when she asked if I’d be interested in taking over Cody’s, I knew that it was serendipitous,” explains Mohammad, adding that he was equally lured by Aurora’s food scene. “I’ve always loved the palpable international restaurant culture of Aurora, and the area is growing by leaps and bounds, which makes it a great alternative to downtown,” he says.
Bettola, which translates to “hole in the wall” in Italian, is “every chef’s dream,” says Mohammad. “I love the coziness and quaintness of the space, and with just 40 seats and a kitchen that’s just me and my dishwasher, I have complete control over the food and the opportunity to really take advantage of the produce at the farmers’ markets and in my home garden.”
The ever-evolving, market-driven menu is rooted in traditional Italian offerings: housemade ricotta with roasted tomatoes and garlic, shrimp scampi, spaghetti and meatballs, cioppino, steamed mussels pooled in a pesto and white wine broth, crispy eggplant-pomodoro and pan-fried ricotta gnudi with roasted cauliflower, oven-dried tomatoes and Parmesan broth.
“It’s a labor-of-love menu that speaks to my passion for rustic, simple Italian food and ingredients that don’t require a lot of manipulation,” notes Mohammad, adding that several dishes on his menu—including the cioppino—are rifts on recipes that were guest favorites at other restaurants where he previously cooked. Desserts—tiramisu, a flourless chocolate torte and a seasonal fruit crisp—are handcrafted in the small kitchen, and all of the breads are baked in-house. “Baking bread is my little Zen project of the day. I put the loaves in the oven in the afternoon and take them out right at 4:30 so they’re super-fresh when we open,” says Mohammad, who also makes most of his pastas by hand.
The food menu is offset by an all-Italian wine list with affordable price points, and on Wednesdays, every bottle is half price. Firestone, who oversees the front of the house, as well as the bar program, selected the wines, cocktails and beers. Guests can sip a negroni, red sangria, an Aperol spritz and an Italian iced tea made with Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka and housemade limoncello. Draft beers, most of which are local, include Dry Dock’s IPA and Apricot Blonde, New Belgium’s 90 Shilling and Ellie’s Brown from Avery Brewing.
The ambient dining room and bar, painted burgundy and desert camel brown, is bedecked with original paintings, courtesy of a regular guest, as well as custom metalwork, including Bettola’s “open” sign and an interior sculpture depicting the tree of life. Firestone’s mother, a potter, designed much of the speckled clay plateware. “It’s just a great space that exudes love,” says Mohammad. “I’m really fortunate to have this opportunity. I’m responsible for every dish that goes out, and I’m excited to be cooking on my own. I have full accountability, I own it, and I like it that way.”
Bettola Bistro is open from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; happy hour is offered from 4:30 to 6 p.m. For more information, please visit bettolabistro.com.