Opening cool Italian restaurants is the new black in Denver in 2017. Sushi — we have added some amazing places like Sushi Ronin and Matsuhisa to our sushi scene — is very 2016. Lasagna, fettuccine, chicken Parmigiana are what is in for the foreseeable months.
The trend built up slowly toward in the second half of last year. Chef Paul Reilly unveiled Coperta at the end of July. Barolo Grill launched Chow Morso inside Avanti in October. RiNo's Dio Mio Handmade Pasta, from chefs Alex Figura and Spencer White, and Belmar's Brodo Italian Scratch Kitchen (from the owners of the Wooden Table in Greenwood Village) followed later in November.
But 2017 ramps up our Italian game even more: Quality Italian blasted into Cherry Creek North. The buildout is exquisite, the dishes are traditional yet creative, and the buzz is already loud. And there is much more coming. Chef Elise Wiggins, who gained a loyal following while cooking at Panzano, is gearing up to launch Cattivella at the East Bridge development later this spring. And the team from Frasca Food and Wine is anxiously awaiting the end of construction for Tavernetta, a large format Italian trattoria behind Union Station.
Two things are certain: Denver did not just discover Italian food. It has been here for a long time with beloved staples like Barolo Grill and Frasca Food and Wine raising the bar and our city's national profile. The wave of new Italian restaurants is not unique to Denver. From the now-established Torrisi and Carbone born in New York City, to the still hot Bestia and Alimento in Los Angeles, to the new and impossible-to-get-into Monteverde in Chicago and Lilia in Brooklyn, the golden era of noodles is growing stronger.