Dere’s dis restaurant with a nonsensical name that belies the quality of the food: Dat’s Italian.
Once getting past the appellation, I fully enjoyed my meal. It seems I’m not the only one to wonder about the name. A laminated card explains its origins: “It’s not just cause us New Yorkers don’t pronounce our t-h-’s so well. It just seemed perfect to name the restaurant after my husband of 35 years … ”
JoAnn and Dennis Trujillo opened the Old Colorado City restaurant in 2010, and it’s not only tourists who wander in for a taste of Italy. It’s the locals, though, who seem to know that reservations are recommended, but lunch is less busy.
The menu is a what’s what of Italian cuisine, with some Adriatic Sea and Sicilian influences but mostly familiar classics. Ravioli and pizza were the only standards I noticed missing. But many other options make it easy to forget about ’dem. And like any Italian restaurant worth its sauce, the servings are huge.
Among the starters are mussels, two types of meatballs and fresh-pulled mozzarella. Unlike most restaurants, no bread basket is brought to the table, although you can order a bread plate ($3.99) served with olive oil or marinara, or garlic bread ($6.59). An unimpressive dinner roll accompanies each entrée, but it’s not worth the calories and isn’t even a good vehicle for sopping up excess sauces. This was the only disappointment of our meal.
Everything else was exceptional, beginning with the pignoli meatballs ($7.50). Beef and sausage meatballs filled with pine nuts and covered with a full-bodied tomato sauce set the bar for the rest of our dinner.
Our enthusiastic server knew the menu well and could offer suggestions and explanations. She shared her personal favorites, which include most of the seafood dishes, particularly the shrimp scampi ($19). It’s best to avoid this dish if you shy away from garlic. Fortunately, this is a flavor I embrace with gusto — perhaps to the dismay of friends and family members. Whole roasted garlic gloves and a generous amount of shrimp swim in a creamy sauce, which is a blend of olive oil, butter and a lot of Parmesan cheese. More flavor comes in the surprise bites of roasted lemon. Unless otherwise requested, this is served over angel hair pasta. I requested trenette pasta; similar in size and shape to linguini, it’s made fresh and hand cut daily. It’s a $2.50 upcharge.
The lasagna ($16.75) is also made with sheets of fresh pasta. The menu describes it as being “The Best,” which may be hyperbole, but it certainly was among the better renditions I’ve had. The only issue is the amount of cheese. Apparently it’s prepared with “Six Key Italian Cheeses.” That might be two or three too many. The meat sauce is a robust tomato base featured ground beef and sausage.
An impressive array of desserts greets diners as they enter the restaurant before even being seated and seeing the menu.
We said yes to cannolis ($6.75). Fried pastry dough is rolled into tubes and filled with almond-flavored whipped ricotta cheese and sprinkled with shaved chocolate. It was the best way to finish da meal.
Appetizer and entrée dishes were left on the table long after there was food on the plates. A little bus service would have been appreciated. Otherwise, service was attentive, and the noise level was not an issue for mealtime conversation.
Restaurant: Dat’s Italian
Address: 2514 W. Colorado Ave.
Contact: 632-3287; datsitalian.com
Restaurant character: Family-owned serving Italian classics
Rating total: 4 of 5 forks
Food: 4.25 of 5 forks
Ambiance: 4 of 5 forks
Service: 4 of 5 forks
Hours: 12:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Entrees: $10 to $22.50
Credit cards: Yes
Vegan options: Yes
Outdoor dining: Yes
Gluten-free options: Yes
What’s online as of July 24:
• No votes on Foursquare
• 5 of 5 stars based on 2 reviews on TripAdvisor
• 3.2 of 5 rating based on 13 votes on Zomato
• 4.7 of 5 stars based on 3 reviews on Yelp
Excellent rating Sept. 27, 2018, by El Paso County Public Health.