Though LoDo has already seen a couple big Italian restaurant openings this year — Chow Morso, Tavernetta — another one will join the neighborhood by the end of the month. Jovanina’s Broken Italian should open late next week at 1520 Blake Street.
Formerly Aoba Sushi, the completely redesigned space will serve some expected regional fare, including handmade pasta, coal-roasted veggies, wood-fired pizza, half chickens, and whole fish. But it should also distinguish itself in the category. A basement wine cellar and speakeasy will help with this.
Jovanina’s is a combination of its owners, husband and wife Jake and Jennifer Linzinmeir, who are both Colorado restaurant industry veterans. She owns The Red Lion in Vail, while he ran Excelsior Café in Telluride. The two met decades back in hotel management school at Cornell and then reconnected and married two years ago. Together, they also consult on local restaurants — see the Nickel at Hotel Teatro and Telluride’s Bon Vivant.
Now Jovanina’s is the their first joint solo project. The name refers to Jennifer’s Italian nickname (her family is Sicilian), while “Broken Italian” is where Jake comes in (he lived and worked in Piedmont at a three-star Michelin restaurant).
Jake has brought on-board his partner and former Telluride chef Ben Halley, who recruited some industry friends from New Orleans to help run the restaurant. The group’s fine dining training from places like Commander’s Palace and Arnaud’s should also set Jovanina’s apart. They’re going for high-level but relaxed from a counter-service lunch to sit-down dinners and late nights.
And that’s where the basement comes in. Not quite completed, the spacious dungeon will start out as a wine cellar where diners can head before the meal to pick out their bottles. Once the room is finished, it will also serve as an after-dinner lounge to keep the party going. The team is calling this space Sotto Voce, Italian for “in a quiet voice,” which is appropriate given that the room once connected to downtown Denver’s subterranean tunnel network.
Across the 19th Century building, the Linzinmeirs are making historical nods like this, hoping that Jovanina’s strikes a balance between the old city and a new Denver restaurant.
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