Denver's ten best Italian restaurants

Categories: Best of Denver

Barolo-017.jpg
Mark Manger
Barolo Grill, 3030 East Sixth Avenue
Three-decade-old Barolo Grill has long been held up as the gold standard for fine dining in this town, and while the Piemontese restaurant has had its ups and downs, it's definitely flying high now, turning out inventive northern Italian fare under Darrel Truett, a seven-year veteran of the kitchen who stepped into the exec role a little more than a year ago. The menu changes frequently to keep up with the seasons, but no matter when you stop by, you can be assured you'll experience near-perfect dishes with clever twists, which means the best way to go may be the tasting menu. Don't miss owner Blair Taylor's wine list, either: It features great bottles at all price points.

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Sketch, 11 West First Avenue
Brian Laird was instrumental in building Barolo Grill's glory, presiding over that kitchen for more than a decade. He moved on last year, though, and eventually settled at Sketch, a wine bar in the old First Avenue Hotel, where he created a tightly edited list of snacks, panini and expertly executed housemade pasta, including pasta puttanesca -- made with anchovies, chile flakes and capers -- and veal-stuffed plin. Sketch isn't a typical neighborhood Italian joint...it's better. And with Laird in the kitchen, it rated our Best Neighborhood Italian Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2012.

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1. Panzano, 909 17th Street
Elise Wiggins presides over the kitchen at Panzano, an elegant space on the bottom floor of the Hotel Monaco that's anything but a run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant. Her menu is inspired by northern Italy, but the chef also has a commitment to local suppliers, and she uses some of Colorado's finest sources to build her dishes. The combination of those good ingredients and her exacting technique means she makes absolutely stunning food, from duck-liver mousse and fried Brussels sprouts to excellent gnocchi, pappardelle Bolognese and tagliatelle carbonara with house-cured pancetta. And that's why Panzano once again took our Best Italian Restaurant award in the Best of Denver 2012.

Have another favorite? Tell us about it below.

More Best of Denver® 2012 Lists:

- Denver's ten best new restaurants

- Denver's five best seafood restaurants

All of these lists are also available on our Best of app; see it in action at http://bestof.voiceplaces.com/denver-boulder.



Location Info

Mama Sanninos

5800 W. 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge, CO

Category: Restaurant

Carbone's Italian Sausage Deli - CLOSED

1221 W. 38th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Spuntino

2639 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

The Wooden Table

2500 E. Orchard Ave., Greenwood Village, CO

Category: Restaurant

Frasca Food and Wine

1738 Pearl St., Boulder, CO

Category: Restaurant

Il Posto

2011 E. 17th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Luca D'Italia

711 Grant St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Barolo Grill

3030 E. 6th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Sketch Food & Wine - CLOSED

11 W. 1st Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Panzano

909 17th St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
Marcopoloindenver
Marcopoloindenver

Parisi's food used to be decent...now it's mediocre at best. 

Doughboy
Doughboy

Went to eat at Wooden Table last Sunday; it's so suburban out there it was closed on Sunday night.  Oh well, will have to try again.

I have to disagree with the omission of Parisi.  They have some of the best pasta and risotto dishes in town.  I don't care that you have to order it at the counter; it's worth the trip to Highlands.   The person who said its no better than Mici doesn't know what they're talking about.   In fact, other than Frasca and Luca D'Italia and maybe Panzano, I can't think of another Italian joint I'd rather go to and I would gladly take an out of town guest there.    

Scott
Scott

I agree that the risotto dishes at Parisi are very good and the I really like the ceaser salad pizza as well, but the regular pizzas on the menu seem to have soggy crust.  There's much better pizza in town.

Mike
Mike

Parisi's is great! It is incredible, affordable, delicious concept. The food is always great and authentic! 

Chefzoso
Chefzoso

Luca;s Website states they are the highest rated Italian Restaurant in the western USA.....I won;t dispute that but woulf be interested to hear how that was arrived at...vs any Italian Restaurant in San Franscisco for example ( like incanto)

Guest
Guest

That is a great point. I certainly would dispute and find it laughable actually they state that

Emma
Emma

Who is Sketch bribing to get these endless mentions? I've never seen anyone actually eat there, and if we're talking total experience (and since we've been on the subject of the service in this town anyway) then there's no way.

Barslinger
Barslinger

I can't believe you do not have Locanda Del Borgo in the list.  Certainly my favorite, although I have not eaten at Frasca.  Panzano may be a close second.

GFTW
GFTW

Luca really has a big photo of one of their tables on their wall??

Kblock
Kblock

Salumeria Cinque Soldi??? That place is freaking amazing.. 

Jeff
Jeff

Frasca, Panzano, Luca, and Wooden Table are all sure bets for a list like this, and would have been at the top of my list as well.  Il Posto and Barolo Grill are both kind of hit and miss these days, though I would have probably included them as well.  The presence of some of the other places on this list is kind of surprising.

I too would have expected Parisi to place, and how could such a list not include Osteria Marco?

RockyMountainOyster
RockyMountainOyster

I second the vote for Osteria Marco, maybe with Luca already on the list it would've been too Bonanno-y?

JP
JP

Other than the fact Osteria Marco has pizza and some Italian apps, I'd hardly label them as Italian. For us it was the site of one of the three worst dining experiences in our years together. Slow service -- took half an hour to get beverages and two hours to get some appetizers -- all the while with ear splitting noise in the dining room and a guy bussing tables around us who had the absolute worst body oder I've encountered.

Liver
Liver

Why that wouldnt be fair would it??

lipster
lipster

Wow...no Parisi?  Really?

Nashtrans
Nashtrans

I agree.  but if Parisi was too fast casual to make the list -  how about their lower level restaurant Firenze a Tavola?  I have had great experiences there.  Wild boar stew, yum!

Jon S
Jon S

I'd definitely take Parisi over Barolo nowadays. Or at least I would have put it on the list instead of Carbone's. Carbone's is great, but it's a sandwich shop, not an Italian restaurant.

Guest
Guest

Parisi is mediocre and Tennyson isn't that cool. Get over it.

Scott
Scott

Please enlighten us.  Where are the cool neighborhoods in Denver?

Jeff
Jeff

 I don't think I would advise them that it's a "can't miss" Italian restaurant, but I think it's great place to get reasonably priced authentic Italian food.  I would certainly advise it as a very good lunch stop.  I think Food Network did it on one of their $40 a Day shows years ago.

Mici is always pretty good, but no, I do not think it's in the same ballpark as Parisi.  I don't live anywhere near that neighborhood, but if I'm nearby, I make a point of going Parisi. 

The owner is from Florence, and it shows.  They make their own tagliatelle and gnocchi in house.  Whereas Mici offers American-style tomato and Alfredo sauces, Parisi is doing real Amatriciana, carbonara, porcinis and cream, bolognese, etc.  The pizzas at Parisi are much better (the Rustica is fantastic).  Most importantly, Parisi offers a full array of secondi, entree courses of meat cutlets in simple pan sauces as you would expect in Italy.

Mici is a fine quick service restaurant, but while Parisi offers some similar items, they're playing at a much more advanced level, and you can have an excellent four course dinner there if you choose to do so.  That's to say nothing of their great fine dining experience downstairs.

Maybe it's time for another visit?

Guest
Guest

Tennyson is a charming neighborhood and Parisi is a fine choice for people who live nearby. For the rest of who don't live near nearby, it's simply not worth making a point to go there. I'd go to to every restaurant on this list before Parisi.

For example, I work near Mici. Mici is as good if not better than Parisi and a go to spot when I don't want to drive. That said, I wouldn't advocate that Mici should be on this list just because it's in my neighborhood and I eat there a lot. Parisi and Mici are a good value and nice neighborhood joints, but simply not culinary destinations as other restaurants on this list are. To elaborate, you would sound foolish advising a tourist with good taste that Parisi is a "can't miss" Italian restaurant in Denver.  

Jeff
Jeff

Wow, that's a very convincing argument.

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