The words "fresh" and "seasonal" both come to mind when contemplating Italian cooking. While Colorado winters can make it tough to find great seasonal dishes in Denver, here are two Italian restaurants finding creative ways to add cold-weather fare. Read what these two new Italian eateries are doing to combat the winter doldrums.
400 East. 20th Avenue
Coperta owners Paul Reilly and Aileen Reilly want their charming Italian eatery to be the go-to neighborhood stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Power Lunch special has been part of the board since the beginning, offering soups or salads paired with panini, pasta or other entrees along with a soft drink and fresh-baked cookie, all for under $20 and in 45 minutes. But now there's a morning menu, too. Coperta now boasts a walk-up counter called Coperta a Asporto (there's a separate entrance on 20th Avenue), where you can pick up hot breakfast sandwiches, housemade pastries and espresso drinks. Service runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., so lunch-style sandwiches are also available. And if you need a full meal but don't have time to relax in the dining room, Coperta's full lunch and dinner menus are also available to go. Coperta a Asporto is the closest you'll get in Denver to the quick-service kiosks inside Italian train stations.
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The restaurant also just launched its Aperitivo menu, which reads like a happy-hour roster. A selection of small plates, wine, beer and cocktails are all priced at under $10 between 4 and 6 p.m. at the front bar tables and banquettes, or from 4 p.m. to close at the cocktail and mozzarella bars. Nibbles include Sienese peppers, polenta fritters, swordfish involtini, calamari, mussels and a salumi plate (all priced between $2 and $8). Sip on tap wines for $5, Aperol spritzes for $6 and Moretti Italian draft beer for $3. Or enjoy a Colorado/Italian combo of Coors Banquet (in a can) and a shot of Fernet Branca for $6. Salute!
3264 Larimer Street
Dio Mio just opened in RiNo in mid-November, but the post-holiday slowdown means that the pasta-rolling crew is adjusting hours for the rest of winter. The kitchen will now be closed on Sundays and will open for lunch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday only. Closing hours are 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. While the hours may be shorter for now, the menu continues to evolve and captivate diners with seasonal dishes rotating in and out on a weekly basis. Check out traditional items like rotolo (rolled and stuffed pasta sheets) stuffed with onion, mushroom, cherries, spinach and a poached egg, or Dio Mio-style plates like mezzaluna (half-moons) filled with sunchoke ricotta and served with clementine and sunchoke chips. Also coming soon at Dio Mio: happy hour, pasta-making classes and spaghetti socials.