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While many of Denver’s best Italian restaurants have been around for decades, new favorites keep popping up because, let’s face it, Denverites love pasta. And pizza. And cheese, wine, olive oil—all the things that make Italian cuisine great. We ate our way across metro Denver to determine which spots have the creamiest risotto, the punchiest picatta, the fluffiest focaccia, and much more. Here, 5280’s list of the best Italian restaurants in town. Buon appetito!
Editor’s Note: This is a living list of the best Italian restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, that was last updated on November 30, 2023. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Best Italian Additions
The menu at Bruno’s Italian Bistro offers all the classics, from veal piccata to shrimp scampi. We, however, love this Washington Park West spot for owner Nick Mujaj’s more unconventional choices. Start off with an Italian margarita, an amaretto-spiked twist on the original recipe. Then, either tuck into an appetizer of fried artichokes with lemon-caper aïoli, or stick to the complimentary bread accompanied by olive oil studded with bits of black olive and garlic. For your main, don’t pass up the osso buco, a giant portion of fall-off-the-bone pork shank braised in red wine and served atop crispy polenta. 560 S. Broadway
The further east in Denver you go, the sparser the Italian options are. But with the opening of Cucina Bella a year ago, residents of Lowry, Windsor, and beyond have a new go-to joint for pastas, pizzas, and more. The plates that brothers Luis and Heriberto Gutierrez serve are simple but not dull: pennelike garganelli with pesto, Burrata, sun-dried tomatoes, and summery vegetables; spaghettini topped with tender prawns and a shower of basil; and an array of pizzas sauced with San Marzano tomatoes. Cucina Bella also hosts a delicious brunch, and who wouldn’t want pancetta-studded breakfast pizza at 10 in the morning? 9660 E. Alameda Ave., Suite 104
Lo Stella Ristorante’s roots are in Portofino, where one family has operated a restaurant by the Ligurian Sea for more than 175 years. Luckily for those of us who can’t fly to Italy for a special meal, nine years ago, eighth-generation family member Alessandro Polo decided to bring Lo Stella here to Denver. The menu at the relaxed Golden Triangle eatery stays faithful to the original. The recipe for the fish ravioli in a creamy shrimp sauce has been in the family for decades, as has the spaghetti slicked with Nonno Puppo’s marinara sauce. If the history isn’t convincing enough, pick out a bottle from the all-Italian wine list, which has both affordable and splurge-worthy bottles. 1135 Bannock St.
Homey is the best way to describe Speer’s Odyssey Italian Restaurant, and it’s not just because the 11-year-old eatery is stationed in a Victorian-style home. From the charmingly cluttered interior to the easygoing patio seating, Odyssey is where you want to enjoy familiar dishes executed with minimal fuss. The veal piccata tastes properly of lemon and capers, and the linguini and clams (which was served with mussels instead of clams when we visited) pulls out the best that garlic, white wine, and parsley has to offer. A glass of wine and complimentary rolls for the table make you feel as if nonna is back there in the kitchen. 603 E. Sixth Ave.
Sean Huggard transports diners to the Mediterranean with his new venture Oliver’s Italian. The Greenwood Village eatery is only one month old, but the airy, verdant space already feels like a classic. Pair a white Negroni with the Pecorino-adorned pasta al limone, or go to town on a Roman-style pinsa (akin to a traditional pizza but closer to a flatbread) topped with mortadella, buffalo mozzarella, pesto, roasted garlic cream, and pistachio. Hubbard also owns Blue Island Oyster Bar & Seafood, so there are plenty of fresh oysters on the menu, too, including an Oliver’s-exclusive La Dolce Vita oyster sourced from Long Island. 4950 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village
Depending on when you visit, almost one-year-old Stella’s Cucina gives off the vibe of a speakeasy or a dancey late-night bar, but it is first and foremost an Italian restaurant—and a dazzling one, at that. The swanky art-deco-influenced design of its main dining room is bright and brassy, and the 360-degree bar at the center of the space means that, no matter where you’re sitting, you can watch the bartenders shake up your espresso martini or whiskey sour. The menu is similarly showy: whole, roasted Mediterranean sea bass; a bone-in pork chop with a fennel butter emulsion; and sea scallop risotto topped with summer truffle. We recommend checking the restaurant’s Instagram so you can make your reservation at a time when Stella’s is hosting live music. 1123 Walnut St., Boulder
Our Old Favorites
If this eight-year-old Highland restaurant were a cocktail, it would be a spritz: The sparkling, trendy quaff befits Bar Dough’s celebratory, convivial nature. (The fun factor also isn’t surprising considering that Culinary Creative Group, the team behind Bar Dough, has also given us the quirky, always delicious A5, Fox and the Hen, and Red Tops Rendezvous.) Executive chef Russell Stippich—formerly of Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine, RiNo’s now-closed Acorn, and the Nickel—mans the kitchen, turning out a rotating lineup of stellar pastas, pizzas, and larger entrées. Whatever you choose to eat from the menu, pair it with—what else?—your choice of five spritzes. 2227 W. 32nd Ave.
Barolo Grill has been a Cherry Creek institution for three decades and counting, and its seasonal Italian menu shows exactly why. Guests can tackle the concise list by either dining à la carte or opting for the $95 tasting menu, where you pick a sized-down portion of an item from each of the menu’s four sections—antipasti and salads, pastas, meaty mains, and desserts. With options like cheese soufflé, lavender-infused agnolotti, and braised duck in the current lineup, both routes provide a fine-dining experience with flavors that you likely won’t find at other Italian spots. Regardless, we recommend having the sommelier team suggest a pairing for your meal from their expertly curated and extensive wine menu. 3030 E. Sixth Ave.
Chef-owner Kelly Whitaker grinds heritage grains into fresh flours at Dry Storage (his artisan mill and bakery, located next door) for 13-year-old Basta’s pastas, breads, and pizzas. Inside the white-walled neighborhood spot—tucked in the luxe Peloton West condominium complex off Boulder’s Arapahoe Avenue—the comforting smell of char wafts through the air as diners feast on wood-fired specialties. That includes exquisitely plated seasonal pastas and vegetable dishes, perfectly blistered pies, and protein-centered sharable entrées. Don’t skip the ultra-fluffy sourdough piada, Basta’s famed Italian-style flatbread. 3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
When siblings Paul and Aileen Reilly opened Coperta in 2016, they filled a previously under-occupied niche in Denver’s Italian scene by focusing on the cuisines of Rome and southern Italy. His spicy pollo alla diavola is an exaltation of Calabria’s signature chiles with a juicy, wood-fired bird as the backdrop. You’ll also find textbook versions of Roman cacio e pepe and rigatoni carbonara, which, as with all of Coperta’s pastas, is available in small or large portions. Coperta’s refined ingredients, including house-made mozzarella and house-cured guanciale, are nicely matched by a wine list full of indigenous Italian grapes and cocktails that favor the bittersweet buzz of amari. 400 E. 20th Ave.
If you’re the type of person who equates Italian food with pasta, then minimalist-hip Dio Mio is your jam: Spencer White, Alex Figura, and LuLu Clair’s seven-year-old, counter-service RiNo restaurant is truly all about the noodles. Its seasonal menu changes often, encompassing novel creations such as furikake-topped radiatore with basil pistachio pesto, and classics like cacio e pepe with curly-edged mafalde, pink peppercorns, and Parmesan. And while pasta is the star here, the team always has a roster of non-noodle small plates—including brown-butter-marinated artichoke hearts and house-baked sourdough—that are worthy of a visit all on their own. 3264 Larimer St.
Though this Capitol Hill restaurant has just 30 seats, its flavors—inspired by recipes from owner Ryan DiFranco’s Sicilian grandmother—can only be described as big. The vodka sauce is enriched with bits of fried prosciutto; the chicken parm sandwich on a sourdough baguette is brightened up with parsley and onion; and DiFranco even offers his own brand of house wines, crafted by Bonacquisti Wine Company in Sunnyside. While the food would be at home in a more upscale setting, the counter service is quick and efficient and the atmosphere is laid-back, perfect for a workday lunch or relaxing dinner. 955 Lincoln St.
Since Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson debuted Frasca in 2004, their culinary love letter to northern Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, they’ve earned oodles of accolades: a Michelin star, multiple James Beard awards, and placements on scores of best restaurant lists (including ours). This spring, executive chef Ian Palazzola took helm of the kitchen, where he produces elegant Friulian show-stoppers from inventive ingredient combinations. Past menus have featured risotto with Esoterra sculpit (a native Italian herb) and pljukanci di grano saraceno, a penne-length buckwheat pasta Palazzola dressed in glass eel and dandelion pesto. While your meal may feel like a splurge—$195 for eight courses or $140 for four with wine pairings for an additional cost—the experience is unlike any other in Colorado. 1738 Pearl St., Boulder
With its Smaldone family mobster backstory and purportedly haunted Sunnyside location, there’s plenty of lore surrounding this long-standing (76 years and counting!) Mile High City institution. But Gaetano’s is no cobwebbed relic. The red sauce temple continues to deliver excellent pastas, pizzas, and cocktails. The clams aglio e olio—littlenecks and linguine swimming in a garlicky, white-wine scented sauce—is a bowl of briny bliss, and the gooey chicken parmesan is one of the best in town. We’re not so sure about the ghost stories, but we do know that the scene at Gaetano’s on a Saturday night—barrel-aged Negroni in hand, plate of breaded calamari in front of you—feels just right. 3760 Tejon St.
Sicilian-born chef Gaspare Licata, who earned the title of master baker in Italy when he was 16 and master chef at 18, co-opened Gallo Italian Supper Club and Bakery four years ago to serve some of metro Denver’s best homemade breads, pizzas, and baked goods. For dinner, start with the sausage cannoli, made with garlic-butter-oiled pizza dough and stuffed with homemade Italian sausage, mozzarella, and jalapeño. Then go for Gaspucci’s Pasta (the nickname of the proprietor himself): penne tossed with chicken, green and red bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, and broccoli sautéed in a spicy vodka sauce. Make sure to scan the walk-up counter for takeaway cakes, cookies, and cannoli before leaving the humble eatery. 3470 S. Broadway, Englewood
II Pastaio has satisfied Boulderites’ carb-loaded cravings since 2000. Upon entering the strip-mall treasure, you’ll likely be greeted by Marta Oreamuno, who owns the no-frills restaurant with her husband, Giuseppe. Their pastas and sauces, all produced in-house, are available for sale by the pound and pint, respectively, for patrons to take home to whip up their own meals. But we recommend enjoying your ravioli (choose from 15 fillings, including beet, shrimp, and lamb) with spicy arrabbiata sauce or eggplant parmigiana in the dining room. There’s even a cafeteria-style lunch special with a ravioli of the day, lasagna options, and hearty vegetable sides. Note: The restaurant is only open Monday through Friday. 3075 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Once a cramped (but charming) hole-in-the-wall on 17th Avenue, Il Posto chef-owner Andrea Frizzi celebrated a decade in business by moving his beloved Italian eatery to a shiny RiNo location in 2017. The chic, two-story space, which is dominated by a whimsically sprawling light fixture, is a beautiful home for Il Posto’s modern Italian fare. Refined dishes such as saffron-infused arancini in a tomato-sherry cream sauce don’t lose the comforting effect of their homier counterparts, and the flawlessly cooked mushroom risotto is a menu highlight. Combined with an impressive regional wine list and creative cocktails featuring lesser-known Italian spirits like grappa-based Poli Miele honey liqueur, we imagine we’ll be toasting Il Posto 2.0 on its 20th anniversary and beyond. 2601 Larimer St.
Since opening in late 2018, Jovanina’s has become a go-to Italian restaurant in LoDo. Its whimsical decor—candelabra-bedecked tables, floral wallpaper with hidden images of broken iPhones, reclaimed gas lamp light fixtures—hints at the sort of avant-garde dishes you can expect from chef Jake Linzinmeir, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Jennifer. The current roster includes anything from smoked bone marrow with Aperol vinaigrette to wood-fired truffle chicken with mushroom-fava ragu and ricotta dumplings. If you’re heading in for date night, we recommend dining in Sotto Voce, Jovanina’s underground, Prohibition-style lounge with roving cocktail carts and full dinner service. 1520 Blake St.
For a quarter of a century, downtown’s Panzano, located inside the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, has been a Denver institution, providing handcrafted antipasti, pasta, and secondi plates to business people and tourists alike. In June 2021, chef David Gross took command of the kitchen, where he continues to put a Colorado spin on the eatery’s classic northern Italian fare. Look for treasures like bell-shaped campanelle pasta coated in a lamb and pork Bolognese, along with lighter dishes like the seasonal fish served with cauliflower purée, salsify, and black garlic coulis. 909 17th St.
If you’re looking for an approachable Italian experience, look no further than Berkeley’s fast-casual Parisi. The brightly lit dining room is relaxed and busy; its menu is rife with options to satisfy your every Italian hankering—pizzas, pastas, panini, plus a small market’s worth of dried pastas, olive oils, sauces, and take-and-bake dishes. Don’t miss the hearty, skin-on porchetta, which comes rolled around buttered herbs, basted with savory jus, and accompanied by your choice of two sides (we like the roasted potatoes and wilted greens and beans). We also love the Piadina Pugliese, a quesadillalike flatbread filled with broccolini, hot peppers, provolone, ricotta, and sausage. 4401 Tennyson St.
Chef Ty Leon and partners Heather Morrison and Austin Carson combined their mutual appreciation for great pasta and warm hospitality to open Restaurant Olivia. The spot is an excellent date-night destination, thanks to a killer wine and cocktail list, excellent handmade pastas, and a romantic, floral-pendant-light-lit ambiance. During dinner service, the restaurant bustles with patrons sipping apricot-spiked golden Negronis and twirling spaghetti studded with poached prawns in ivory leather booths. To enjoy the best of the team’s seasonal offerings, opt for the five-course tasting menu; highlights from past iterations include carrot cozetti (a round pasta) with crispy artichoke, Manchego and honey-lemon vinaigrette and citrus-cured Arctic char with vichyssoise and grilled maitake mushrooms. 290 S. Downing St.
When it comes to family-run Colorado red sauce joints, you can’t do much better than Romano’s. A Littleton staple since 1967, its hearty, marinara-drenched specialties makes a drive to the southern ’burbs worthwhile. All of the staples are well represented: pitch-perfect eggplant parm, lasagna bolstered with rivers of melty provolone cheese, ultra-garlicky shrimp scampi, and house-made cannoli for dessert. With its trellises of plastic grapes, Tiffany-style lamps, and Chianti-colored vinyl booths packed with regulars, it’s just the place for post-soccer-game pizza parties with the kids or casual date nights without them. Just be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekends. 5666 S. Windermere St., Littleton
Doting service and plates of Indian-influenced Italian food make a winning combo at Spuntino, a Highland gem run by husband-and-wife team Elliot Strathmann (general manager and beverage pro) and chef Cindhura Reddy. The arancini with seasonal accompaniments is always a good bet, and the capellini aglio e olio—hand-rolled strands of pasta kissed with olive oil, Indian-spice-preserved garlic, garlic breadcrumbs, and a runny 63-degree egg—is a must-order if it’s on the menu. Whatever you choose, let the kind staff walk you through the unique wine and spirit lists, full of surprises such as homemade aperitivi and amari made from locally foraged and grown herbs and botanicals. 2639 W. 32nd Ave.
The appeal of Tavernetta is that it satisfies almost any Italian-leaning craving, whether you’re hankering for hearty rigatoni with lamb ragu or crispy seafood fritto misto. From the team behind Frasca Food and Wine and Sunday Vinyl, this Union Station restaurant is just as enjoyable during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. daily) as dinner service, when traveling businesspeople and celebrating locals alike indulge in handmade pastas, elegant secondi, and an expertly curated wine list. Throw in Tavernetta’s fluffy, oil-slicked focaccia and the picture-perfect tiramisu, and you’ve got one of the best Italian restaurants Denver has to offer. 1889 16th St.
Chef-owner Alex Kallas and his wife Dina opened Undici almost 20 years ago to supply Englewood residents with staples from the Repubblica Italiana. If the excellent weekday happy hour deals ($25 for a bottle of wine and an appetizer of your choice) don’t get you in the door, the handcrafted entrées surely should. Try the gnocchi Bolognese: soft, melt-in-your-mouth potato pillows drenched in a tangy, slow-simmered meat sauce that’s worth mopping up with the complimentary basket of house ciabatta. Also don’t miss the butternut squash ravioli topped with sage-infused brown butter and aged balsamic. 1200 E. Hampden Ave., Englewood