by Amy Vaerewyck
How many chefs can make this claim? “I don’t have a fryer.”
Paolo Neville can.
The executive chef for the new Bistro Elaia in the just-opened Anschutz Health and Wellness Center uses a lot more than butter or fat to make your mouth water—farro tabouli, oven-dried tomatoes and Southwestern black beans, to name a few.
“First, we want it to be fantastic food,” Neville said. “Then, we want to surprise you by telling you how healthy it is.”
Raised on an organic farm in Boulder, Colo., Neville has been a chef for more than 20 years. He has brought his skills to a variety of places, from restaurants in California’s Napa Valley to local, Denver-area restaurants. And he’s worked with the family of the bistro’s owner and operator, Jim Dadiotis, to develop original Mediterranean-influenced menus.
He and the Bistro Elaia team worked closely with Eliabeth Kealey and Kim Gorman, registered dietitians at the Center. The dietitians used their nutrition knowledge and recipe analysis to help create a menu in which “delicious” and “nutritious” are practically synonymous.
“Some of the key items we look for are the inclusion of: whole grains, lowfat protein sources, smart preparation methods and fresh fruits and veggies,” Kealey said. While she’s done a lot of menu-planning, this is her first experience with an exciting new restaurant. “We help ensure that the general recipe composition is balanced, with an emphasis on variety.”
Bistro Elaia options
- Dine-in – Get a healthy breakfast on the go, enjoy a nutritious lunch with a friend or grab a post-workout snack.
- Delivery – Order a soup, sandwich, salad or burger right to your academic building, office or any locale on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
- Catering – Bistro Elaia has already gained a reputation around the Anschutz Medical Campus for its crowd-pleasing catering options.
- Research – Voluntary study participants help the Center learn about people’s interactions with food in a realistic eating environment.
Bistro Elaia’s menu grabs your taste buds’ attention with items like the “Better Beef” burger, the “Hummus Among Us” salad and “The Skinny Chix” sandwich. Then, it educates you with the calorie count for each item.
A sandwich on French bread with four different cheeses, plus mayonnaise—only 490 calories? This guy must be good.
“Cooking and natural foods are both passions of mine,” Neville said. “I’m focused on finding alternative methods and delicious recipes.”
Dadiotis said it was challenging at first to follow the dietitians’ guidelines while creating a menu that will satisfy customers’ demand for taste. But, he said, bringing together the worlds of culinary arts and health sciences makes sense, because they both have the same ultimate goal. Like the Center itself, the bistro focuses on personalized health that works for each individual.
Patrons who want to learn about food’s role in wellness, weight loss and disease prevention can take health education and cooking classes or check out the Center’s website for helpful “Recipe Rehab” ideas.
“We’re not putting wellness into one little box,” Neville said. “Health should be a fun experience, not just going on diets and constant exercise.”
A bonus of the Bistro: Many of its ingredients are natural, organic and locally-sourced. In fact, some of its produce couldn’t get much more local. Certain herbs Neville uses are harvested from the indoor hydroponic garden wall adjacent to the bistro, and a portion of the produce served will be grown right on the Center’s very own Green Roof.
You might come to Bistro Elaia for the low-cal Mushroom Dusted Tuna. You might drop by to try the Forbidden Rice Salad—ironically named, given its reputation as a nutrient powerhouse. You might stop in regularly for a Healthy Heart Strawberry Smoothie.
A week before the Center’s official opening, Miriam Dickinson, biostatistics professor in the School of Medicine, took her lunch break at Bistro Elaia.
“It’s really good,” she said of “The Med” sandwich and fennel-carrot slaw. “I’m so happy to have healthy food options on campus. I plan to work my way through the menu.”
When you get down to it, the draw of Bistro Elaia is pretty simple: “It’s better for you,” Dadiotis said.