It’s not like Denver is hurting for great Italian food; we’ve got it in spades, from classic red sauce joints like Gaetano’s to stylish modern spots like Tavernetta. And yet, co-owners (and spouses) Jennifer and Jake Linzinmeir have managed to create something new and exciting on Blake Street, quirkily named Jovanina’s Broken Italian.

The pair definitely know how to run restaurants, with 35 years of experience on each of their resumes; Jennifer is also a co-owner of the Red Lion in Vail and Jake has served as a chef and consultant for area eateries including the Nickel, as well as esteemed restaurants and hotels from Hawaii to Italy. But Jovanina’s—so called after Jennifer’s family nickname (Giovannina)—is the couple’s first project together, and a reflection of how they cook and eat when they’re at home.

Maybe that’s why there’s a sort of romance in both the menu and the vibe of the restaurant. Conceived and executed with chef Ben Halley, Jovanina’s food centers around fresh seafood, roasted meats, seasonal pizzas, and a wealth of vegetables cooked in its imported Valoriani wood-fire oven, not to mention excellent handmade pastas and large-format dishes for two. The beverage offerings, from former New Orleans hospitality pros Sean Keipper and Tom Hughes, are eminently quaffable; think spritzes, plenty of bubbly, and a globe-trotting wine list categorized by flavor profile.

Jovanina’s physical space (which formerly housed Aoba Sushi) was once a cigar factory, a fact that the Linzinmeirs have embraced and enhanced by marrying a collection of reclaimed antiques with modern touches. Antique: the host station made from a repurposed broken scooter (a Vespa, not one of these). Modern: wallpaper from local designer Walltawk that hides current-day iPhones and the like within its floral pattern. Antique: Bronze gas lamps recovered when the Hotel Teatro was renovated four years ago have become glowing light fixtures above the gleaming zinc bar. Modern: open banquets decked out in bright orange leather. It all adds up to gorgeous.

Photo by Sarah Boyum

For now, Jovanina’s is open for a “fast-fine” counter-service lunch (Tuesday through Friday) featuring two rotating pastas, a pizza, and a salad. It’s a lovely way to dip into Linzinmeir’s and Halley’s cooking—and if your midday meal is anything like a recent lunchtime bowl of sunchoke tortellini with cashew pesto, crunchy sunchoke chips, and chile oil, not a drop of sauce or parcel of pasta will be left behind. Pizzas are individually sized, restrained, and very tasty. Think: a white pie with shallot cream, broccolini, pine nuts, and a shower of golden garlic chips.

Dinner is a table-service affair that we can’t wait to dive into, starting with the likes of grilled oysters with pickled grape mignonette and herbed breadcrumbs, roasted kabocha squash with house-made ricotta, and definitely the bone marrow cavatelli. And with Jovanina’s soft serve coming in flavors like tiramisu, tres leches, and brown butter, we also know how that meal will undoubtedly end.

Denver, get ready to fall in love with Italian all over again.

1520 Blake St., 720-541-7721

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.