Traditional Italian with a Colorado flair

Bella Colibri is Dean and Aimee Valdez’s third restaurant in Golden

Posted 11/19/19

One of Dean Valdez’s childhood memories is the aroma that came from his grandfather’s cooking. The smells of a pot of savory red sauce and meatballs simmering on the stove after coming home after …

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Traditional Italian with a Colorado flair

Bella Colibri is Dean and Aimee Valdez’s third restaurant in Golden

Posted

One of Dean Valdez’s childhood memories is the aroma that came from his grandfather’s cooking.

The smells of a pot of savory red sauce and meatballs simmering on the stove after coming home after a fishing trip, Valdez remembered.

And Papa’s clam spaghetti.

“He’s one that people gravitated to,” Valdez said of his grandfather, who, though he has passed away, is fondly referred to as Papa among family members.

Valdez’s family settled in Colorado in the late 1880s after immigrating from Calabria, Italy. Through the generations, the family passed down their Italian food heritage and these recipes have inspired much of Bella Colibri’s menu.

Dean Valdez and his wife Aimee opened Bella Colibri, an upscale Italian restaurant in downtown Golden, on Nov. 1.

The menu offers dishes that hail from all over Italy, such as the cacciucco, a Tuscan seafood stew; and the beef Bolognese. Vegan and gluten free options are available.

The restaurant has a full bar that offers classic Italian cocktails and an extensive wine list, with the majority of the selection being Italian wines.

The menu is designed so that people can experience dining in the traditional Italian way — starting with antipasto, meaning appetizer; sharing a primo, or, first course; then moving on to secondi, the main meal; and finishing with dolce, a dessert.

However, it doesn’t have to be done that way, Dean Valdez said, adding that people may choose an item from antipasto or primo as their main meal if they’d like.

Another highlight of the restaurant is the Chef’s Counter, where people can sit, interact with Chef John Wilson and witness him and the other chefs at work.

Dean and Aimee Valdez have lived in Golden for about 20 years, and Bella Colibri’s atmosphere reflects the couple’s love for Colorado. The name came from their enjoyment of watching the hummingbirds at their home — bella colibri is Italian for beautiful hummingbird.

Bella Colibri is the third restaurant venture for Dean and Aimee Valdez. They opened Miners Saloon, 1109 Miners Alley in Golden, in summer 2016. It is themed as a modern version of an 1800’s saloon that would serve miners and prospectors stopping into Golden for supplies during the Gold Rush.

In spring 2017, the Valdez couple re-opened the Old Capitol Grill & Smokehouse, 1122 Washington Ave. in Golden. Built in 1863, this is the building where Colorado’s territorial legislature met from 1862-1867.

Bella Colibri shares the building with the Old Capitol Grill & Smokehouse, but the new Italian restaurant is located in what was the territorial library, Aimee Valdez said.

In Italy’s restaurants, Dean Valdez said, it’s common for landscape paintings to be the restaurant’s main art. So, the couple decided to decorate Bella Colibri as traditional Italian with Colorado flair — adorning the walls are prints of watercolor and oil paintings of Colorado scenes.

There aren’t many fine dining restaurants in Golden, and as of current, Bella Colibri is the only Italian restaurant in the downtown area, Aimee Valdez said.

“When you have a thriving dining scene, as well as strong cultural attractions and opportunities for families to do things together,” said Aimee Valdez, “it makes the community that much richer.”

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