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Truffo Panino from Shangri-La Cafe

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This article appeared in the Denver Westword Blog on January, 25th 2011:

For several years, Massimo Ruffinazzi, who was born and raised in Casteggio, Lombardia Italy, was chef/partner at Il Fornaio, an Italian restaurant that once occupied prime real estate in LoDo, before it shuttered (the Tech Center location still stands) and was resurrected last year as Big Game. Il Fornaio has always been lauded, if, for nothing else, its breads, and Ruffinazzi is a bona fide bread-head and consummate counterman, turning out loaves of love at Shangri-La Cafe, his groovy java and sandwich cafe in Highland.

His menu — salads, a salumi plate and a pantheon of panini — is simple, unpretentious and tiny, but the panini ooze with big flavors, none more so than the truffo, a sandwich definitely worth the jostle for a table, the majority of which are occupied by laptop-toting studious types. Ruffinazzi uses a custom-baked bread from Il Fornaio, sandwiching the halves of pressed bread, properly baked so they yield the ideal amount of chew and crackle, with arugula leaves and weightless shavings of Parma prosciutto, its richness bolstered by melted slices of Fontina and an exquisite wild mushroom spread lightly whiffed with truffle. It could be larger; it could be available past 3 p.m., when Ruffinazzi closes his doors; but good luck finding one that’s better.

By Lori Midson
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