Denver's ten best Italian restaurants
Brett Shaheen trained in Frank Bonanno's kitchens, which gave him plenty of experience with Italian cooking. And when he opened the Wooden Table with Jane Knauf, the restaurant in the southern suburbs that's the focus of this week's review, he brought a masterful touch to the menu, which is filled with perfectly executed dishes -- including housemade pastas, playful twists on such classics as panzanella and sublimely cooked scallops -- that showcase Italian culinary tradition without being slavish to it. Paired with a savvy Italian-focused wine list, every meal here is worthy of a special occasion.
Frasca Food and Wine, 1738 Pearl Street, Boulder
When Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson opened Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, they didn't just raise the bar for restaurants here in Colorado; they also introduced diners in the area to an often-unfamiliar part of Italy. They focused on the cuisine of Friuli, building a menu inspired by the northern region's culinary traditions. The place has just gotten better with age, with an ever-changing menu of seasonal pastas and entrees bolstered by a couple of mainstays like frico caldo -- a griddled cheese-and-potato pancake -- and carefully sourced list of salumi that pairs to an exceptional Italian-focused (but very broad) wine list.
Il Posto, 2011 East 17th Avenue
It's been more than five years since Andrea Frizzi opened Il Posto, and since then, the restaurant, with its breezy dining room, open kitchen and chalkboard menus, has achieved venerable neighborhood-joint status. Frizzi imports his favorite Italian ingredients and combines them into dishes meant to showcase seasonality and inventive flavor. Kick off the night with a little cured meat and Italian cheese -- it goes great with the free pour of fizzy Lambrusco given to every diner -- and don't miss the risotto.
Luca d'Italia, 711 Grant Street
When Frank Bonanno opened Luca d'Italia in Denver nine years ago, he showed the city that southern Italian food could be more than just a run-of-the-mill red-sauce joint: His sexy Luca menu was special-occasion-worthy. Many good Italian restaurants have joined the lineup in the last decade, but Luca remains superlative, with dishes ranging from delightful pastas made with seasonal ingredients (and an excellent pappardelle Bolognese) to baby octopus matched with crispy trotters and a kick-ass suckling-pig porchetta.