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Lou's Italian Specialties. Photo courtesy of From the Hip Photo.

Denver’s Italian Food Scene Is Better Than Ever

These three new Italy-inspired restaurants are innovating on tradition.

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The Traditionalist

Three months ago, New Jersey native Joshua Pollack opened his third endeavor (after Five Points’ Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen and Famous Original J’s Pizza), Lou’s Italian Specialties, an homage to the Italian-American delis of his childhood. The cheery, takeout-only Curtis Park eatery bears all the hallmarks of the genre: the warm aroma of roasted garlic; counter service (sampling is encouraged); a display case filled with cured olives, marinated artichokes, caponata, caprese salad, and more; and, of course, epic stacked hot and cold subs.

Pollack even imported his kitchen team from the Garden State in order to nail the details, which includes carefully layering those sandwiches on local City Bakery bread, pulling fresh mozzarella throughout the day, and slicing whole-muscle cured meats (from Il Porcellino Salumi and Elevation Charcuterie & Artisan Meats) as thin as sheets of newspaper on the shop’s custom avocado green Italian Snaidero slicer. You can also stock up on fresh and dried pastas, house-made marinara and meatballs, Italian cookies and cannoli, and boutique oils and vinegars that’ll make your home larder taste a bit more like the best of Jersey.

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Don’t Miss: The chicken parm sub, for which Pollack marinates chicken breasts in mozzarella whey, breads them in bagel crumbs, and fries them until juicy and crisp.

(Read More: The 24 best Italian restaurants in and around Denver)

The Innovator

Jovanina’s Broken Italian. Photo courtesy of Sean O’Brien.

Four-month-old Jovanina’s Broken Italian in LoDo is unlike any other Italian restaurant in Denver. Sure, its eclectic mix of reclaimed furniture, flickering candelabras, blue-and-white floral wallpaper, and dark walnut floors has instantly made it a date-night go-to. And yes, chef and co-owner Jake Linzinmeir’s menu always features familiar favorites such as wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas. But Linzinmeir (who spent months cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants across Italy) also creates whimsical culinary twists that, somehow, just work: There’s an odd but delicious plate of roasted oysters topped with pickled grapes, toasted breadcrumbs, and a drizzle of olive oil. Or consider the house-extruded cavatelli, which Jovanina’s pro service team enriches with roasted bone marrow tableside. These may not be Nonna’s recipes, but they’re so good even she wouldn’t mind.

Don’t Miss: The daringly delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano soufflé with balsamic gelato, a Franco-Italian cheese plate– soufflé hybrid.

The Pioneer

Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

When a groundbreaking Roman brewer arrives in the Mile High City with a chef and bread baker in tow, it’s a carb-y cause for celebration. The party began four months ago, when Alex Liberati opened Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers in Curtis Park, renovating and outfitting the former Golden Bell Press Building into a state-of-the-art, 27-tank brewery/restaurant; its 310-seat fountain-adorned patio opens next month. Liberati’s menus are full of surprises, such as its beer-wine hybrids, called “oenobeers” (“oeno-” as in Jay “Leno” without the L), crafted by Liberati and head brewer Bob Malone. They add wine grapes to the grain mash of their IPAs, imperial saisons, Belgian dubbels, and the like for added complexity, tannins, and flavor. Executive chef Marta Biasotti and master baker Federica Ansani collaborate in the kitchen, producing breads, pastas, charcuterie, cheeses, and gelato according to classic Italian recipes. Try the “sampietrini,” the restaurant’s name for its fluffy bread pockets stuffed with fillings such as eggplant parmigiana and chicken cacciatore.
Don’t Miss: Daily gelato selections—some of the creamiest in Denver—in flavors from dark chocolate to lemon.

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