He calls it a “a labor of love,” referring to the October opening of Salati Italian Street Food in Northfield. It started with love, too, when restauranteur T.C. Clark and his wife went to his homeland, Italy, for their honeymoon. They encountered a lot of street food, sold off of carts or out of little huts where “a little Italian grandma would slide open a window and, boom, the smell would hit you,” recalls Clark. One street food, the piadina, stood out to the couple. Flat bread thrown onto a hot stone bubbled up before being wrapped around meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauces. The couple was hooked and wanted to bring the idea back to Colorado.
Besides being delicious, Clark really loved the idea of walking up to a vendor and getting authentic, fresh food they could customize with the ingredients they wanted. Despite running Milo’s, a sports bar in South Denver, Clark couldn’t get the idea out of his head of opening a place based on the concept of “Salati,”slang for “savory.” To Clark, that meant food that is enjoyed as it is seen, heard and tasted.
To bring that full experience to life, Clark hired his Culinary Director, Shahin Afshanian Campuzano, who has experience cooking all over the world. “I told him ‘here’s the concept but you’re a classically-trained chef. You’re going to get to play and bring your skill set to Salati’ and he has, he’s amazing,” says Clark.
During the day, one side of Salati focuses on express meals where diners can choose from a piadina bread, pasta or salad base, adding a protein (including a pork porchetta which has had 32 hours of preparation), sauces or dressings and vegetable additions. Come evening, Salati becomes something more. While diners can still take advantage of the express side, they can also relax in the lounge area with a full bar and menu of Italian style tapas, designed to be shared.
The idea of communal food where people would have a drink, share food and be together came from Clark’s childhood. “There were huge tables, everyone standing around eating, waving their arms in the air, being Italians, having a good time, eating good food…that was my family,” says Clark.
While the burgeoning development of the Northfield area was a big draw to Clark in locating the first Salati (he hopes to open more locations around the Metro Denver area), it was really the broad-ranging demographics that were the appeal. Clark says, “We’ve met young kids to retirees and they’ve welcomed us with open arms. It has been over-the-top unexpected but really appreciated.”