As the likes of TripAdvisor, Vacation Idea, and Open Table all attest, Denver isn’t exactly coming up short in the restaurant department, especially if those restaurants happen to be serving the kind of spaghetti mama used to make. The city’s food scene is buzzing, and at the forefront of the action are the dozens of fine Italian restaurants crowding its streets. Next time you’re craving some meatballs, some pizza, or some fine, fine pasta, head to one of these fine options.
10. Marco’s Coal-Fired
Where: 2129 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80205
Pizza doesn’t always need to be a simple grab ‘n’ go option. At Marco’s Coal-Fired, the art of the pizzeria is on full display. Using the laudable techniques of the Verace Pizza Napoletana (not to mention some of the finest ingredients known to humankind), Marco’s has taken the humble pizza and transformed it into something truly magnificent. Granted, you might have to pay a little more than you normally would for a slice of pie, but one bite of the Calabria (fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, spicy salami, hot dry-cured coppa, fresh basil, and San Marzano tomato sauce on a crisp base, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil) should be enough to convince you of the value.
9. Bar Dough
Where: 2227 W. 32nd Ave Denver, CO 80211
There’s a little something for everyone at the friendly little neighborhood eatery of Bar Dough. Serving up a great selection of small plates and more substantial fare (including some outstanding wood-fired pizzas), chef Carrie Baird has done wonders at creating a menu that manages to be both innovative and approachable. With a comfortable, modern décor and fast, friendly service, it’s a great place for a mid-week feast.
8. Parisi pizzeria, trattoria e vino
Where: 4401 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212
Parisi pizzeria, trattoria e vino is split between two concepts: upstairs, you’ll find the fast-casual option; downstairs, you’ll land on the fine-dining, full-service restaurant and wine bar. The only difference between the two is you: if you want to relax and enjoy a leisurely glass of fine Italian wine and some great food, the 2nd option is calling. If you want to grab a quick, tasty bite on the go, pop upstairs. The quality, service, and food in both are on an equal footing- and a very good one at that. If you’re seated downstairs, the butternut ravioli won’t disappoint (and the sumptuous tiramisu will do anything but), while 2nd-floor customers can’t go wrong with a slice or two of classic pizza Margherita.
Where: 3760 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211
Stepping through the doors of Gaetano’s is like stepping into history. Once the hangout of Denver’s only mafia, there’s little reminders of its notorious past everywhere you look, from the black-and-white photos hanging from the walls to the uniquely retro ambiance. These days, the mobsters may have gone, but their legacy lives on in the old school, 100% authentic menu. The weekend brunch is practically a local institution, and the perfect opportunity to enjoy one of their Bottomless Mimosas.
Where: 955 N Lincoln St Unit d. Denver, CO 80203
Low key and easy-going though the ambiance maybe, when it comes to food, DiFranco’s is an all-out overachiever. Focusing on honest, authentic Italian food made from fresh, local ingredients, there’s a simplicity and elegance to the menu that’s a breath of fresh air. Try the penne with prosciutto vodka sauce for a taste experience worth writing home about.
5. Dio Mio
Where: 3264 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
Dio Mio might not be the place to take Nonna for a sedate Sunday lunch, but if you’re happy to eat your spaghetti while jostling for elbow space with the hip crowd, this is the place to go. Replacing checkered tablecloths and fussy table service with counter service and hip hop, the vibe is young, vibrant, and friendly. The menu, meanwhile, is 100% fine dining. With its focus on creativity and quality, you can ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe’ your way around the dishes and never land on a bad one. Just make sure that whatever you choose, you accompany it with as much of the fresh-baked sourdough as you can feasibly fit in your mouth.
Where: 2639 W 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211
Since bursting onto Denver’s restaurant scene in 2014, Spuntino has become something of a local favorite. With its focus on fresh, local ingredients and a cooked from scratch philosophy, it’s positively oozing with quality. Despite the high standards, prices are more than reasonable, while the deserts (which have even managed to grab a James Beard Foundation’ nomination) are unmissable, with the Zeppole in particular winning top marks.
Where: 1889 16th St, Denver, CO 80202
From the same James Beard Award-winning team that bought us Frasca Food and Wine comes Tavernetta, a gloriously authentic establishment where the intimate, welcoming vibe is matched in excellence only by the frankly heavenly food. Prices may be on the higher end of the spectrum, but give it one bite of the Campo Di Funghi, and you’ll happily take out a 2nd mortgage to afford another.
2. Barolo Grill
Where: 3030 E 6th Ave, Denver, CO 80206
Every summer, Barolo Grill hangs up a closed sign and sends its staff on a two-week tour of Italy. That’s how seriously it takes its commitment to producing some the most authentic, exquisite Italian food you’ll find this side of the Atlantic. Although you can order a la carte, experience the full force of the restaurant’s capabilities with the five-course tasting menu. With dishes such as Polpo (Spanish octopus, carrot purée, olive tapenade, Calabrian chile powder), Cestini di mortadella (handmade pasta stuffed with mortadella, mini pepper rings, pistachio, salsa verde), and Torta di carote (warm carrot and pistachio cake, brown butter icing, house-made sage gelato), it’s worth every cent of the $80 price-tag.
Where: 909 17th St, Denver, CO 80202
Finally, we come to Panzano. Serving up contemporary North Italian cuisine with an innovative local twist, it’s a little slice of Italian heaven in the heart of the Mile-High City. Boasting 4 diamonds from the AAA and the title of one of Zagat’s best restaurants in America, Panzano is everything you want a fine dining Italian restaurant to be: authentic, seasonal, welcoming, and just a little bit glitzy. A favorite with local businesspeople and the pre-theatre crowd, it’s not somewhere you can expect to get away with wearing sneakers and overalls. But with some of the best Wild Boar and Pomodoro Meatballs you’ll taste in your life, and a Ragu Di Agnello that’s practically a religious experience, it’s worth scrubbing up for.