Chili Oil

Chili Oil is easy to make condiment that adds so much flavor to dipping sauces, dressings, and marinades.

Chili Oil from Frank Bonanno

I was one of the lucky few invited last fall to join a group of local food bloggers and attend an intimate dinner at one of Chef Frank Bonanno’s wildly popular Denver restaurants, Luca D’Italia, to sample some of the recipes from their new icookbook, The Luca D’Italia Cookbook.

I was lucky to have them provide me with the recipe for this Chili Oil but if I’m honest, I just want to go back; everything was out of this world!

Filled with recipes for family style Italian food; it’s not just a collection of recipes but also includes over 2 hours of instructional video providing readers with a variety of skillsets including how to poach a lobster, how to bone a chicken and how to butcher a rabbit among them.

I couldn’t help but think, ‘how fortuitous.’ Great food in a beautiful location but even better for me? The chance to make that same great food myself. And I really had the best of intentions.

I would peruse the iBook and decide upon my favorite dish and replicate it here; anxious to share with my readers the goodness that I experienced in this warm, intimate environment.

Then, life happened and some balls got dropped and here I am 6 months later; house sold, daughter 2 months into chemo (and managing it well, thankfully) and I’m currently living with friends which has allowed me some rest and respite; both sorely needed.

My blog schedule might be a bit erratic but I’m getting back into the swing of it and also enjoying some local food events so I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to another Bonanno Concepts production; their first pizza joint aptly named Bonnano Brothers Pizzeria.

Photo by Scottie Davison

While these two restaurants are totally different, it’s not hard to see the ribbon that runs through them that exemplifies a Frank Bonanno (ad)venture. Exceptional food combined with equally exceptional service; that is their hallmark.

Well known in the Denver area with an impressive stable of ten restaurants, Chef Bonanno was lucky to have found his passion early and has had the experience of working in restaurants most of his life.

Reared in New Jersey, Bonanno was always immersed in food; whether at the table of his Sicilian grandmother or with his parents on trips to New York City to explore restaurants.

Landing in Denver where he graduated from the School of Finance at the University of Denver, he continued that passion by earning a second degree at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, NY. Denver is lucky to have drawn him back west and with him his legacy of great Italian food that he shares with such passion.

Salumi & Cheese Plate
Photo by Rachel Nobrega

Our dinner at Luca D’Italia started with Burrata and an assortment of salumi. The salumi was perfect; Frank is reknown for his love of cured meats but for me it was all about the Burrata.

Oh. My. Goodness. I recalled it so vividly that it was a ‘must have’ when invited to the pizzeria. How can you not love cheese stuffed with more cheese? A thin layer of mozzarella is stuffed with homemade ricotta which is then drizzled with olive oil and served with toasted, crisp bread. Heaven on a plate and only just a starter!

Lobster Fra Diavolo-pasta
Photo by Scottie Davison

Dinner was served family style with large platters of food placed on our tables. Each dish was masterfully cooked and presented and I would be hard pressed to declare a favorite.

Considering my fondness for lobster, you might assume that the Lobster Fra Diavolo shown above would have won my heart but everything was so good I’m glad I didn’t have to make a choice!

Fusilli2
Photo by Scottie Davison

Maybe Wild Mushroom Fusilli would be your favorite?

We enjoyed so much more too; Calamari with Caper Berries, a fantastic Brick Chicken with Panzenella Salad, and ended with Tiramisu and house made Limoncello. An altogether fantastic experience.

If you’re local, you probably know the place and should scoot over for dinner but if you’re not local and want to enjoy it too? By all means check out the The Luca D’Italia Cookbook, you will love it!

bonannobros-front

What’s the biggest difference for me between Luca D’Italia in Denver and Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria in Lone Tree? Finally one that is near me! I’m unabashedly a suburbanite and while some will lament the dearth of fine dining compared to living in the city, I have to say I love something closer with abundant parking.

I heard rumors about them traveling south but it wasn’t until I was invited to bring a companion to their Friends and Family opening that we found out just how close. In the Vista at Park Meadows; within ten minutes from my door to theirs and with abundant parking? Can you say Happy Camper?

Aperol Spritz on Tap
Photo by Rachel Nobrega

First and foremost? One of my absolutely favorite cocktails, the Aperol Spritz, is ON TAP!! That alone would be enough to see me become a regular customer but that was just the beginning.

Burrata was a must and though it’s easy to make it will most likely always be on my ‘have to have’ list. Served with crispy slices of bread; it’s heaven on a plate I tell ya!

calamari-pepperoncini

My friend Karen and I shared some of our dishes so that we could indulge in more choices. Our second appetizer was the Calamari and Pepperoncini. Perfectly prepared and tender squid are served with fried rings of pepperoncini peppers; a surprising but also delicious combination of ingredients. I think we fought over the last one. Not kidding.

We kept our salad simple and went the route of Caesar; so good I actually forgot to get a snap! Yes, it has an egg in it. How else do you REALLY prepare a proper Caesar salad??!!

Lobster Fra Diavolo-pizza

I surveyed the menu choices for our main course, a pizza. Yes, I spied the Lobster Fra Diavolo Pizza but my single mom/frugal mentality couldn’t even consider it…until my hosts insisted. Well, if you insist…it would have been rude to have not accepted, right?

Worth every penny. A fabulous crust topped with lobster, tomatoes, chiles and ricotta. I think ‘swoon’  fits. Amazing pizza. Though I’m anxious to get back for more…the Wild Mushroom and Walter White are next on my list.

And if I’m in the mood for spur of the moment? I love that they have a community table smack dab in the middle of the room; no reservations required!

chili-oil-bonanno
Photo by Rachel Nobrega

Served alongside our pizza was a trio of accompaniments. Parmesan cheese, chili flakes and the most wondrous of all? Chili Oil. I tried to be discreet, I really did but if you had been there you might have noticed my forefinger dipping into a pool that I put on my plate…just loved the stuff.

It’s simple as can be but my daughter and I learned a hard lesson. DO NOT LEAVE IT OR LET IT EVEN SIMMER!!! Our first go around was not good, in fact it was totally burnt. Let’s blame multi-tasking OK?

Second time was the charm and I loved it enough that I begged to share this recipe with my readers too. My only word of caution after that one about not letting it burn? Use good olive oil. Your end result is only as good as the ingredients you put into it.

It’s sort of like my tequila advice when making margaritas…you don’t have to use the most expensive but also don’t use the cheapest!

Chili Oil

Pretty huh? So tasty too. We loved it drizzled over the pizza and especially the crust and at home I’ve used it for breads, marinades and salad dressing. I’m hooked.

chocolate-buddino

Thankful we had shared our food, my friend Karen and I made it a point to save room for dessert. We each ordered a dessert to share. The Chocolate Budino with sea salt was rich and creamy; the biscotti a perfect accompaniment. BUT…

butterscotch-bread-pudding

This was the bomb. Long a favorite at Osteria Marco, this Butterscotch Bread Pudding has moved out to the burbs. This alone was worth the trip.

Considering our dinner was pre-opening night I would have expected some snafus but I saw none of that. The wait staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the food was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Wait…yes I could. We sat next to their garage doors that open onto the heart of the Vista area with foot traffic and a water fountain; next time I’m hoping the weather permits and they are open. I’ll pretend I’m sitting on the Vendetta sipping my Aperol Spritz…now that would be perfection!

But let’s not forget this Chili Oil. It may seem simple and is…but I could not get enough of it; you have to try it as a dipping sauce, it’s amazing!

PIN IT! ‘Chili Oil’

Chili Oil in Dipping Bowl

Chili Oil in Serving Jar

Chili Oil
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Chili Oil

A flavorful oil that is used for dipping, sauces, and in dressings. So versatile and adds a bit of heat.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salads, Dressings, Marinades and Sauces
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 cups chili oil
Calories: 121kcal
Author: Creative Culinary

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Paprika
  • 1 Tbs Chili Flakes
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan, whisk slowly over low heat, just below a simmer for 8-10 minutes, should be aromatic at this point.
  • Strain thru fine mesh cheese cloth, discarding spices.
  • Cool oil in an ice bath before transferring to a bottle for use.

Notes

Aromatic with just a hint of heat, we love this on salads, as a dipping oil and as an ingredient in marinades.

Nutrition

Serving: 18 | Calories: 121kcal | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 1mg

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20 Comments

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  2. Oh my goodness!! I absolutely ADORE burrata!! After goat cheese, it may be my second very favorite cheese on Earth yet I’ve never even thought to try making it myself. You make it sound very achievable! Thanks for the inspiration, Barb.

  3. Barb ~ homemade burrata! I haven’t even tackled that one yet. This place sounds great. Maybe one day I’ll make it out there and we can catch up over dinner.

    1. Yes you must. Sadly I have no place to offer you to stay right now but when I do? We will dish, eat and yes DRINK a few! 🙂

  4. I can’t wait to go to the Park Meadows location and didn’t even realize it had opened. I am like you and rarely go into the city for dinner but I have a few girlfriends who always know the best restaurants and once in a while I tag along. we’ll have to try one of the Denver restaurants this spring/summer. You’ve made me hungry for dinner already and I am just drinking my morning tea!

    1. I’m up for that Holly. Parking is always a pain; add my bad leg to the mix and I want to worry about it even less but the occasional foray is fun. I sort of love the Highlands area too since it’s sort of in between the two both in geography and parking. 🙂

  5. Wow. What food! Amazing! I don’t even know where to start or how to comment on this post, these photos, this food. I will say that you wrote a fabulous review and I would surely eat at each of their restaurants (when I come visit). Stunning. Happy you to be on their invitation list. And the burrata sounds amazing.

    I’m glad Lauren is doing well. Hugs and more hugs to you both.

    1. They do it right Jamie…I’ve never had anything but great food and yes, we would most definitely put them on our list. CP2P? (Colorado Plate to Page). I know I know; VERY wishful thinking but a girl can dream right?

  6. Oh. My. Gosh. I am so excited about the Park Meadows location. I can’t wait to pull up a chair to one of their tables soon. The photos are completely mouthwatering.

    1. It was wonderful Karen, I can’t wait to go back! Happy Hour from 2-5 might be calling our name?

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