LOVELAND – The Stepping Out column has been in existence for a year. That means we have visited 12 restaurants in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.And not once have we been to Loveland. I can point to a myriad of reasons, but the main reason is rooted in personal bias. I worked at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Loveland for about a year and dined out a number of times at lunch and on my way home from work.
I was simply underwhelmed with the variety and quality of the restaurants. I did have one memorable Loveland dining experience back then at the not-exactly-conspicuously named “Italian Deli and Restaurant.” A sweet old Italian expatriate named Dominico Piemnonte owned “Italian Deli É” and his homemade ricotta and romano cheeses were a real treat.
The one time I dined at the restaurant, I scored points with him by ordering extra anchovies for my Puttanesca pasta. He came out to our table and gave me a lengthy discourse in very shaky English about the inferior quality of canned anchovies and sardines in this country and how he longed for me to taste the fresh ones back in the Old Country.
So, when El Editor suggested that this column write about a Loveland restaurant, I was naturally inclined to go back and visit Dominico. A visit to the place yielded sad results: The place was closed. To make matters worse, I found that the reason for the closure was that Dominico was bed-ridden with very poor health. Our prayers for your recovery, Dominico.
I complained to some friends about my dilemma and was told to broaden my horizons by visiting “The Parsonage.” So, I did. I usually do as told.
The Parsonage is located at 405 E. Fifth St. in downtown Loveland. It is located in a charming old house on a tree-lined street off the main drag. Keep in mind that I don’t use the word “charming” often.
The house has quite a history. According to the menu, it was built in 1900 to serve as a – you guessed it, parsonage. Since then, it has been a family home, the county’s health office, a youth center and a gift shop. In 1991, Sarma Gort purchased the building and so began its new incarnation as a restaurant.
I talked with Sarma about her distinctive restaurant and found that her background was pretty unique by Colorado standards. She was born in Latvia and lived there until she was five. As further proof of our failing education system, I had to look Latvia up in an atlas to locate it.
The restaurant bills itself as “International Cuisine,” and the literal meaning applies here. I noticed dishes inspired by the Greeks, French, Italians, Indonesians, etc. É I asked Sarma why she chose to hit to so many ethnic fields, and she explained that she hated the idea of “categorizing” her restaurant. She liked the flexibility to serve whatever food she felt like.
The food philosophy is echoed in the dining-room music. While I was enjoying my meal, I heard some Greek folk music (heavy on the bazouki), then a Mozart concerto, then something sung in what I think was French É It was like pushing SEARCH on the dial of a multinational radio. It was fun.
The food was really great. For extremely reasonable prices at dinner, you receive an entree, the soup of the day, a dinner salad and some good French bread with herbed cream cheese. The house salad dressing was a subtle, herby pesto vinaigrette, and the day I was there, the soup was a simple French carrot.
Sarma grows her own herbs inside and out in the backyard. The backyard has a nifty arbor, perfect for outdoor seating. She told me she has had trouble seating folks outside due to the summer combination of late afternoon thunderstorms and/or heat and the infamous Loveland mosquitoes. I’m hoping she can find a way to beat these problems, because it would really be a nice place to enjoy an evening meal.
The restaurant has that loving touch that lets you know that someone has dedicated a tremendous amount of effort and thought to it. I told Sarma that I thought this, and she wanted me to make it clear that she has received a lot of help from her husband, Alfred, and her daughter Elaine.
So, if you feel like ridding yourself of your Loveland dining bias, give The Parsonage a visit. They’re also open for lunch, but dining hours are fairly limited. Give them a call before you go.
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