We’ve always thought 12th Avenue in Congress Park was ripe for a neighborhood restaurant. Sure, there’s Chef Zorba’s, Pete’s Chinese, and DazBog, and down the street sits Under the Umbrella Cafe and the Daily Scoop but what this area really craves is a spot for dinner that’s casual enough for families but more formal than a diner or coffee shop. It seems that Shells & Sauce, a month-old Italian spot on the corner of 12th Avenue and Elizabeth Street, is answering that call. When we dined last week the place buzzed with Congress Park families and residents digging into pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and provolone, lasagna layered with Italian sausage and hearty marinara, and Sicilian mussels in a saffron Pinot Grigio broth with roasted tomatoes, tarragon, and caramelized shallots. 2600 E. 12th Ave., 303-377-2091

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of making cheese in your home kitchen, let Frank Bonanno chef-owner of Mizuna and Luca d’Italia be your guide. The last three Saturdays in September, Bonanno will teach cheeselovers how to make mozzarella (September 15), ricotta (September 22), and buratta (September 29) in the Luca d’Italia kitchen. Forty-five bucks gets you a seat, Italian cheese-making know-how, a sit-down tasting menu, and a mini-lesson on Italian white wines from sommelier Noel Martin. Classes are limited to 10 people. Call Luca d’Italia to reserve your spot. 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600

If you’re headed up to Steamboat Springs for Labor Day weekend either to watch the Wild West Air Fest or simply to enjoy the mountain air, fuel up for the day’s activities at Freshies Restaurant. Located just outside of downtown, this bustling spot from Scott and Kristy Fox serves up a mean breakfast. Get there early and prepare to wait—the granola-and-dried-cranberry pancakes are worth it, and so is the croque: toasted artisan bread with garlic-basil eggs and melted white Cheddar served with a side of heavenly green chile cheese grits. Bonus: If you’re headed on a hike, spring for one of Freshies’ homemade raspberry bars for sustenance on the trail. 595 S. Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs, 970-879-8099

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.