Cucina della Ragazza is adorable. It’s the kind of neighborhood charmer you want to frequent, regardless of the quality of the food. In this case, fortunately, the food hits the spot so you can return again and again.
The corner restaurant was, among other ventures, the Optical Shop of Aspen in another life. Owner Laura Norris did a terrific job with the complete redo, and I was glad to see that she kept the old brick walls. The matchbox space has a handful of tiny tables…don’t even think of going for dinner without a reservation, unless you go early enough to grab a seat at the small bar. We sat at a table for two in front of the deli case and next to the shelf of wines. Though I assume proper wine storage is not feasible due to space constraints, that means your red wine will probably be on the warm side, as ours was. But those little annoyances are easily overcome by the lovely and efficient service.
We started our evening by sampling the crostini plate, with toppings including arugula and walnut pesto, velvety white beans, and garlic cream cheese with roasted peppers. Each complemented our Chianti, and whet our appetite for dinner. The menu is heavy on old-world recipes, and my husband gravitated towards the Fettucine with sausage and peppers, which he thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted a light meal, so I opted for the beet salad, served in a big bowl with arugula, gorgonzola and walnuts. Looking around the table, it was obvious that the word was out about the BIG meatball. smothered with tomato sauce. It’s considered an appetizer but is the size of a softball, so if you don’t plan on sharing, it’s a meal in itself.
At lunchtime, the stars of the show are the panini, some hot, some sub-style. Breakfast is also served on Saturday, but not on Sunday (and Monday), Norris takes a well-deserved break before gearing up for the week.
No matter what time of day, the menu is small. I hope Norris changes it up often to keep those repeat visitors happy and sated.