When the team behind Frasca Food and Wine, Colorado’s most acclaimed dining destination, announced intentions to open a Denver restaurant two years ago, expectations ran high. The hype and excitement has only continued to build as construction delays pushed the opening past its projected date of March, 2017. But the big day is finally here: Starting at 11 a.m., stunning Tavernetta is finally open for lunch, aperitivo (happy) hour, and dinner.

As expected, co-owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlann-Mackinnon Patterson and general manager Justin Williams—all French Laundry vets—bring the same obsessive attention to detail and hospitality that Frasca is known for. But Tavernetta is no Frasca 2.0. Located discretely between Union Station and the new Hotel Born, the welcoming space is split into different sections to accommodate a variety of diners and experiences, from casual happy hours to quick business lunches to celebratory dinners. There’s a cozy bar area with a fireplace and white oak ceiling; a bustling open kitchen replete with seating facing the pasta station, an eight-seat chef’s table, and the floor-to-ceiling enclosed wine cellar; a white sandstone-walled grotto lined with banquettes, and a sunny, quiet dining annex. Two patios—one facing 16th Street and the other offering a striking view of Union Station’s train platform—round out the seating options. The combined effect of these unique environments, paired with vibrant Slim Aarons prints adorning the walls throughout, channels both Old World charm and modern urbanity.

While Frasca’s menus focus on the cuisine of Friuli, Italy, chef Ian Wortham has broadened Tavernetta’s scope to include dishes from across the Boot. The offerings—and the menu prices—are more accessible than at Frasca and all dishes are offered à la carte. Lunch spans everything from a $15 Panino—basically a kicked-up Italian sub on a divine house-baked ricotta-onion roll—to a $46 rotisserie chicken for two with chicken-fat-roasted potatoes and an escarole salad. Many dishes, such as the buttery Maine lobster tagliolini and the cheese and charcuterie selections, carry over to dinner.

Naturally, wine is a strong focus. Sommelier Carlin Karr spent two years creating Tavernetta’s list, which is an homage to Italian producers. The exception to that rule is the deep selection of French Champagnes. “Champagne is part of the Italian lifestyle and culture of celebration, and we wanted to bring that experience here,” she says. Be sure to flag down Karr as she wheels the custom-built, white oak Champagne cart around the dining room so you can raise a glass of bubbly and toast the Mile High City’s newest gem.

1889 16th St., 720-605-1889 (while this is the correct number, Tavernetta’s phone system is not yet set up; write to reservations@tavernettadenver.com to book a table)

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.