I know my role as a dining critic is to relay the good, the bad and the tasty about restaurants, yet I'm reluctant to share the deets about Sopra Antipasto & Wine Bar because I want to keep it all to myself - sort of.
Greedy as that is, I think it's justified. Sopra exceeds expectations. It offers well-prepared Italian small plates with impressive service in a stunning second-floor dining area above Paravicini's Italian Bistro in Old Colorado City.
The steep but wide stairwell belies what awaits: a well-appointed bar, brick walls adorned with a variety of artwork, hardwood floors and a doorway to a patio with south and west views. Despite the availability of heaters, it was too cold to consider feasting al fresco. That's for another visit.
Sopra, Chef Franco Pisani's new addition to the dining scene, opened in July. It's a place to have drinks and appetizers while waiting for a table at the popular Paravicini's or to enjoy cocktails, a glass of wine and a meal of small plates. The tapas are varied and hearty enough to sate any appetite without making a move downstairs.
Pisani created the recipes, according to our knowledgeable and interesting server. Her descriptions and recommendations were exceptional in their accuracy. She said the cold shared plates ($12 each), such as ricotta drizzled with honey, pistachios and fresh basil, typically served two to three people, while the hot shared plates (also $12 each) were a little larger and better suited for three to four.
Five different bruschettas ($12 per order) are offered, and each order could easily feed six to eight. We selected the braised beef served on house-made bread with melted mozzarella. Pieces of tender, shredded beef and chianti-infused caramelized onions were sprinkled with pieces of gorgonzola. The bread provided a much-needed buffer from the rich, tantalizing flavors. Other bruschetta possibilities include Pomodoro, mushroom, caponata and shrimp with artichokes. I think the beef would be hard to surpass, but I'll return to sample the others just to make sure.
The hot plates include sausage and peppers, baked meatballs, mussels and zuppa di clams. We selected the crab arancini along with the mozzarella d'Angelo. The former because I'm a fan of the fried risotto balls, and the latter thanks to our server's apt description.
The arancini, served with a basil cream sauce, were stuffed with cheese and pieces of crab. The crisp, not-at-all oily coating encased the creamy risotto. My only complaint is the order has only three. Although we managed to divvy them up evenly, we gladly would have paid an upcharge for a plate of four.
Fresh mozzarella is wrapped with paper-thin pieces of prosciutto and sautéed in a blend of tomatoes, garlic (lots of garlic), capers and basil. This was decadently savory. As our server said, all of the flavors meld together. She noted surprise that Mozzarella d'Angelo isn't ordered more often. I'll ask for it every time.
We probably didn't need the polenta with shrimp ($14), but I am happy we had it because three plates were plenty. Nonetheless, this Italian spin on shrimp and grits, here called shrimp scampi, contained an impressive number of shrimp, diced tomatoes, basil and garlic mixed with creamy polenta.
The tiramisu ($6) was definitely unnecessary, but when it's house made, is the chef's mother's recipe and is being split among four, we went for it. The cake was light, refreshing and not overwhelmed with the flavor of coffee.
Chef Franco made an appearance in the dining room, but the stars of the evening were the small plates and our friendly server. It's OK, pass it on.