Somehow, despite being right in the middle of one of Pueblo’s most-trafficked areas, Bistoro continues to be something of a hidden gem. Perhaps that will change with the addition of their brand-new patio seating which just this month began taking up a slice of the Central Plaza sidewalk next to what used to be The Pirate’s Cove.
I hope it does, as this Basque-Albanian fusion is by just about every measure available one of the best restaurants in Pueblo. No one I’ve ever brought to Bistoro has had a bad experience—or at least they’ve never told me they have—and I’ve brought quite a few people there to try it out. The restaurant’s perfect five-star ratings on Facebook, TripAdvisor and, yes, even Yelp only serve to reinforce the point, and for anyone who’s been there, it’s easy to see why.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you step through the doors you’ll feel as if you’ve wandered in off of a bustling European thoroughfare. The owners, Albanian-born Pellumb Dhamo and Pueblo native Joetta Ucar-Dhamo, are a constant presence within the restaurant; though they usually can be found behind the counter or in the kitchen, they always make time to come out and say hello, ask about the meal, and, in Pellumb’s case, offer a firm handshake.
They’ve gone through several versions of their original menu at this point, though the tried-and-true classics remain. The pintxos (pronounced “pinchos”), small Basque-style appetizers eaten either as finger food or speared with toothpicks, have proven a welcome addition to Pueblo’s culinary landscape. You can’t go wrong with the balsamic-forward El Pueblito pintxos, delicate slices of marinated Pueblo chiles served cold upon crispy crostini bread . The stuffed piquillo peppers, filled with a Basque-style potato salad that’s so light it almost seems like whipped cream cheese, is likewise always a good choice.
For a dessert unlike anything else you’ll find in town, try the tullumba, a crispy, churro-like pastry filled with caramel and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
“Balsamic is perfect on everything,” Pellumb told us one of the last times I was there.
But my personal favorites are the Bocata sandwiches. The Bisteak—“Never a mistake,” as one of the waitresses there once quipped, is a flavorful combination of marinated steak, sautéed onions, Pueblo chile peppers, and creamy aioli. I go back and forth as to whether I prefer it served on a fresh bun or cooked panini-style, but the star of the sandwich is undoubtedly the beef. Pellumb uses top-quality beef—a bargain at just over ten dollars a sandwich—and lets it sit overnight so that the flavors can work their way into the meat. He once showed me the raw beef he uses in this sandwich, as it marinated in a deceptively simple blend of olive oil and garlic.
Coming in at a close second is the Euskara, a more traditional Spanish-style sandwich consisting of unbelievably tender chunks of pork topped with piquillo peppers, sautéed onion, and aioli. This one I sometimes prefer over a bed of fries rather than on a bun, a substitution that can be made with any of the Bocatas on the menu.
The decor in Bistoro is in a constant state of evolution, as is the menu. This summer, they’ve added a long list of summer tapas—Spanish-style appetizers that are meant to be shared—such as the Mish Arku which consists of ground marinated lamb sirloin on toasted crostini bread; and the feta cherry orange compote pintxos, also served upon a toasted crostini.
They’re perfect for enjoying on the new fenced-in, four-table patio which the couple plans to further improve with the addition of an awning to keep off the sun. As it is, it’s already the perfect place to relax over a glass of sangria and enjoy the cooler air of a Pueblo evening.
Bistoro is open for lunch (11 A.M. to 3 P.M.) and dinner (5 P.M. to 9 P.M.) Tuesday through Saturday at 109 Central Plaza, in Pueblo. www.bistoropueblo.com.