The Mile-High dining scene has never been hotter, and this year was one for the record books. Our definitive list of Denver's 10 best new eateries.
Osteria Marco1453 Larimer St., 303-534-5855
When Frank Bonanno opened Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, he cast aside the fine linens that adorn his tables at Mizuna and Luca d'Italia and created a casual tavern with deep-set wooden booths, a spacious bar, and a simple Italian menu. "The idea is that this is a fun place—no linens, no Riedel glasses," says Bonanno. "Come have some nibbles, a great bottle of wine, and eat like you do in Italy." In the truest sense, an osteria is a humble restaurant meant to be a gathering place—and we think Bonanno's version succeeds.
The space (once home to Del Mar Crab House) feels fresh and lively, with classic black-and-white accents and an airiness that defies the subterranean location. Paintings of pigs add a hint of humor while complementing the salumi bar. The message: artisanal, simple, Italian.
The menu lists approachable eats such as fresh house-made mozzarella salted just so, paper-thin cured meats (don't miss the bresaola, a red wine-cured beef), rustic pizza, and stacked paninis. We can't resist lingering over meatball sliders that come three to a plate, or savoring the judiciously portioned roasted beet salad brightened with oranges, mint, and hazelnuts. Osteria's prices sit right too, with dishes averaging about $10, and glasses of Italian wine running $5 to $11.
As the newest restaurant on our list, Osteria does have its rough edges—the music ('80s pop?) can seem erratic, a few tables are lit too brightly, and, on occasion, service can be uneven. That said, Bonanno appears committed to working out the kinks and delivering what he is best known for: excellent food.
Opened October 2007
Best Bites The ever-changing meats and cheese platters
Hot Seat Settle in to one of the high-backed booths for a view of the bar and the panini station.
Don't Miss The salumi bar as you walk in the door.