Posto Giusto is an Instagrammer’s dream. Rustic Italian pastas, salads and braises look gorgeous on handmade ceramic dishes. Deep reds and yellows of bruschetta slices contrast handsomely against wooden planks. And beautiful young people surrounded by aged brick walls and large vintage windows could be photographed for Bon Apetit magazine. Such is the appeal of the new fast casual Italian spot in Eagle Rock opened by Marshall Blair, owner of Silver Lke stalwart, Blair’s restaurant.
Fast casual classic Italian? Sounds like an oxymoron. Certainly pizza can be gotten at a counter service restaurant. So can sandwiches, tacos and roasted chickens. But tapas-sized plates of pasta? Braised short ribs on polenta? It’s a concept that Blair and Chef Christopher Washburn were willing to try. Every item is ordered a la carte at a pay station in the middle of the restaurant and then delivered to your table in record time. After that, you’re left alone. I understand that with the various permits one needs to open a restaurant and with the increased minimum wage, it’s hard for owners to start a new venture. So I’m willing to adapt to new dining concepts. And this concept seems to be working in family-friendly, trendy Eagle Rock where customers like the relative inconspicuousness and the freedom to come and go as they please while enjoying moderately priced, appealing food.
I can’t say it worked for me though. I don’t indulge in pasta all that often and when I do, I want all the trimmings. Give me the little bowl of excellent olive oil with a dribble of balsamic to dip my (free) bread in. Bring my salad first and grind some fresh pepper on top. Can I get more parmesan and some hot peppers, per favore? Grazie mille. Here’s a big fat tip for your graciousness.
When you sidle up to the counter to place your order at Posto Giusto, after paying by credit, the iPad is turned your direction for signature. Three large buttons are available for selection: 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent tip. I asked if it was all right if I left my tip at the end of the meal. She gave no answer. Down in the corner was a smaller button reading “No Tip” which I pressed sheepishly. I received no further communication.
We grabbed a bottle of water, glasses and some silverware and made our way to a pretty table by the big open window. The atmosphere at Posto Giusto is undeniably lovely. Wicker hanging lamps give the place a warm glow. The space, formerly Halong Bay Vietnamese restaurant, must have been a workshop of some kind in the 1930s or ’40s. Brick walls, tall ceilings and hinged windows let in lots of light. Diners sit around in twos and threes quietly talking, unhurried and comfortable. They’re enjoying carafes of wine (three varieties available) and bottles of beer (notably the popular Italian brand, Menabrea). The little ones might have an orange soda.
Our food arrived and was plunked down unceremoniously. Appetizers and entrees arrived simultaneously. It wasn’t me but my 20-something daughter that was appalled at the outfits on the two employees: super short shorts and stretched out T-shirts. She’d never be able to wear that at the indie coffee house she works at. “Whatever,” I shrugged. “The food smells good.”
The first bite of my tonnarelli puttanesca was really good — thick spaghetti-style pasta cooked al dente with a robust sauce of olives, anchovies, tomatoes and capers ($13). After bite three, though, I struggled to continue, the excessive garlic, salt and oil dampening my enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s a regional Italian thing, but I can normally handle my strong flavors. The mushroom gnocchetti ($13) on the other hand were simple enough in flavor for a child to enjoy. I was hoping for the taste of the deep Oregon woods in there. But the dense little Sardinian gnocchi are fun to eat and an interesting departure from the pasta norm.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the charred cauliflower too ($9). With all the wonderful Middle Eastern restaurants in town, I’ve become a lover of roasted cauliflower. This was not charred and tasted as if it had been pre-boiled then tossed in garlic and olive oil. I looked around the restaurant at all the happy eaters. Perhaps I’d ordered the wrong things. The braised short ribs on polenta looked amazing ($19) as did the bruschetta with caponata ($9) and the arugula salad with radicchio and pickled onions ($9). Next time, if there is a next time.
I think more than anything, the appeal of Posto Giusto is the relaxed, low pressure vibe of the place. I could see potential eHarmony connections suggesting a meet-up at Posto Giusto. You’d look cool waiting for your date here and you can feel comfortable chronicling the evening with your phone. Though there’s no name listed outside, you’ll know to meet under the sign with the black map of Italy.
For a full Italian meal, I think I’d head to Trattoria Allegria in Montrose where the prices are comparable, the portions are larger and the service is stellar. But for a casual evening out, I might bring a friend to Posto Giusto for a carafe of wine and some fried calamari or crispy smelt with tartar sauce. We could while away the evening, nibbling and drinking for as long as we liked. Then leave a nice tip.
1948 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
Credit Cards Accepted/Wine & Beer