When we think about Italian cuisine in Colorado Springs, several restaurants come to mind immediately. On Tejon Street alone, there are several Italian dining options to choose from, such as Panino’s, Fratelli’s, and Bambinos. Pizza and pasta can be found pretty much anywhere, so we must ask ourselves the question: what makes for a good and authentic Italian meal?
At 1169 N. Circle Dr., there is a small restaurant called Carbonella Creations. From the outside, it gives the impression of a basic Italian restaurant chain in a strip-mall setting, with the giant letters, “Carbonella” underlined by the colors of the Italian flag. In this way, the restaurant may be one of Colorado Springs’ best kept secrets, serving some of the most genuine, fresh, and flavorful food.
The red walls and simple aesthetic make the restaurant feel like a drop-in café in Italy, serving affordable food of incredible quality. So often we judge a restaurant by its décor, gaging the quality of our dining experience through the intricate art covering the walls, the eloquent furniture, or the comfortable mood lighting. Carbonella Creations reminds us that sometimes the best food is found in the most unsuspecting places.
The restaurant advertises itself as a take-out destination, as the dining space itself only holds a few bar stools, and a small booth for customers to sit and eat if they so desire. There are restaurants we go to for the aesthetic, and there are restaurants we visit exclusively for the taste. Carbonella Creations is about the cooking, more than the dining experience.
“The ambiance in the restaurant is sparse,” Paulina Ukrainets ’19 said. “It doesn’t do the food justice, but in a place like this, it does not need to — the food shines all on its own. The freshly-made pasta with a variety of homemade sauces, the focaccia, the porchetta … all of Carbonella Creations’ delicacies transport me, for a moment, away from the food desert that the Springs sometimes feels like, and into a bigger world, in which paying authentic homage to culture through food matters more than ever.”
Carbonella Creations is a project run by a talented duo. The chef, Enrico, is from Ancona, Italy, and many of the recipes used are those passed down by his grandmother. Molly, a Colorado Springs native, is the sous chef, and is also well-acquainted with real Italian cuisine. No dish costs more than $15, and portions are tastefully large and filling. Each day, Enrico and Molly offer a different special dish, or set menu, to encourage customers to try something new.
Each item on the menu at Carbonella Creations is homemade; the pizza and pasta dough is folded from scratch, and sauces are stewed fresh each day. In fact, customers must order the focaccia or regular pizza 24 hours in advance, as the restaurant owners believe the dough tastes better after sitting for a full day. The truth is, the restaurant menu offers such a variety of Italian food that pizza and pasta become the least exciting option. Not only is the food made fresh daily, but the menu also changes constantly, depending on the ingredients in the kitchen and whatever spices or vegetables are available. Usually the restaurant offers six different pasta sauces, from the popular pomodoro and ragu, to the more unique olive e oregeno, or lardellata bianca, a sauce with bacon, onion, garlic, and bay leaf, cooked in white wine.
To make it all even better, Enrico and Molly host cooking classes occasionally to share the meaning of real Italian food with the Colorado Springs community and to invite customers to take the exquisite flavor into their own kitchens back home.
Carbonella Creations is an absolutely delicious surprise to the stomach and the soul. It takes us back to what really matters in a dining experience; it’s not about the hanging lamps, high-rise wooden tables, and abstract paintings hanging on the wall. It’s all about the food, and the taste alone is more than enough!