The Creative Chef Behind The Wooden Table
Weirdest thing – if you’re looking for a great fine dining, sushi, farm-to-table or pretty much any other type of restaurant, you go to Denver. But if it’s delicious, authentic Italian food you’re after, you have to head to the suburbs. Cozy neighborhood eateries, like Greenwood Village’s The Wooden Table, just do it better.
“I was tired of being downtown,” chef Brett Shaheen says of choosing to open his first restaurant in the south Denver suburbs.
“We live in the suburbs and were complaining about there being nothing good to eat, so we wanted to change that.”
And change it he did. The Wooden Table isn’t just a great restaurant for the suburbs, it’s a great restaurant, period. When diners are driving south from Denver to eat at your tiny, strip mall Italian eatery, you know you’re doing something right.
Shaheen didn’t always know he wanted to be a chef, though. Originally from Colorado, he went off to college in Montana and then got a job at a litigations support company. One day, bored with his job, he spontaneously decided to go to culinary school. It worked out well for him – after graduating he worked at some of the best restaurants in Denver before opening The Wooden Table in September 2011.
“I always liked Italian food growing up, and it was what I was good at,” Shaheen says of his choice to focus on upscale Italian cuisine.
Pasta is the heart and soul of The Wooden Table, and at least six varieties are rolled out fresh every day. The menu changes seasonally, but recent favorites include Tortelloni with mixed mushrooms, salty pancetta and white truffle oil, and Gnocchi with pheasant and cranberry relish. If you’re more a carnivore than a carbivore, the Rack of Colorado Lamb with fava bean and herb vinaigrette and aged balsamic is a meatier – and equally tasty – option.
As anyone who’s tried to get a last-minute reservation for Saturday night knows, The Wooden Table is very popular. Next up for Shaheen is opening a more casual Italian restaurant in Lakewood’s Belmar neighborhood. Brodo will still do fresh pastas, but will also offer salads and sandwiches.
One of Sheehan’s signature dishes at The Wooden Table is the Linguine with Clams and Sausage, a hearty combination punctuated with dry vermouth and the standout house-made sausage. The dish is so fresh and addictive that you’re probably going to crave it at home, too. Which is why we begged and pleaded with Chef Shaheen to dish on his dish. Here, his recipe for one of the best bites in the ‘burbs.
Linguine with Clams and Sausage
¼ pound Italian sausage
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 or 2 pinches of crushed red pepper
½ cup dry vermouth
1 cup clam broth
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp butter
Approx. 16 Manila clams
In medium to large sauté pan, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon as you go. Add garlic, shallot and red pepper and cook until garlic and shallots are browned. Add vermouth and clam broth. Bring to a simmer and add clams, butter and oregano. Cover pan and simmer until clams have opened. Add salt and black pepper to taste and toss with cooked linguine.