Denver's ten best Italian restaurants
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.
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.
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.
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5800 W. 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge, CO