Any Italian restaurant that offers more than the standard spaghetti, linguine and fettuccine is using its noodle -- but Cucina Colóre, a casual Cherry Creek joint, really displays some smarts. Not only does it serve up fusilli, tagliatelle and conchiglie, but it does so in the best way possible: by coating the properly cooked, awesomely al dente pasta in skillfully crafted, classically themed sauces. The white bean and roasted red pepper raviolis, for example, come slicked with a sweet, heady combination of browned butter, sage and balsamic syrup; the penne comes "al arrabbiata," with chile peppers, kalamatas and ricotta salata all angrily fighting for attention; and the conchiglie, or "little ears," arrive napped by a light but rich cream sauce sparked with roasted garlic. Even the veal bolognese on the tagliatelle is noteworthy -- thick and chunky, but still possessing a tomato-rich flavor. One bite, and you'll be pasta point of no return.
Parisi Italian Market & Deli
Want the real thing? Go to the source. Or as close as we get in Denver, which is the restaurant run by Florence native Simone Parisi and his wife, Christine, who's originally from Boulder. Christine met Simone in Italy, they fell in love, and she convinced him that Denver needed a really good pizzeria. She was right. Their love Italian-style is evidenced in Parisi's offerings: More than just a pizzeria, this is an Italian market where Parisi makes his own mozzarella-like fior di latte. He smokes some of it into scarmorza, the cheese that he puts on his medium-thick, crackly-crunchy-edged crust, then tops with Parisi's sauce, which isn't really a sauce at all -- it's more like a bunch of tomatoes melted down with garlic. Not content to offer just traditional pizzeria pies such as rustica and vegetariana, Parisi also takes advantage of the current abundance of white truffles by piling them on a sinfully delicious, oil-drizzled pizza, which fills the shop with musky perfume for days. Now, that's amore.

Readers' choice: Beau Jo's

Want the real thing? Go to the source. Or as close as we get in Denver, which is the restaurant run by Florence native Simone Parisi and his wife, Christine, who's originally from Boulder. Christine met Simone in Italy, they fell in love, and she convinced him that Denver needed a really good pizzeria. She was right. Their love Italian-style is evidenced in Parisi's offerings: More than just a pizzeria, this is an Italian market where Parisi makes his own mozzarella-like fior di latte. He smokes some of it into scarmorza, the cheese that he puts on his medium-thick, crackly-crunchy-edged crust, then tops with Parisi's sauce, which isn't really a sauce at all -- it's more like a bunch of tomatoes melted down with garlic. Not content to offer just traditional pizzeria pies such as rustica and vegetariana, Parisi also takes advantage of the current abundance of white truffles by piling them on a sinfully delicious, oil-drizzled pizza, which fills the shop with musky perfume for days. Now, that's amore.

Readers' choice: Beau Jo's

It's 1 a.m. on Saturday, and after all that Friday night drinking, you're hankering for a slice. Time to head to Two-Fisted Mario's for a one-two punch of pizza. Run by two guys, John Skogstad and Kevin Delk, who feel your pain, Mario's is the kind of place that truly wants to be there for you until 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The hours when you can grab a slice aren't this pizza's only assets, either: It's a well-crafted, thin-crust pie slicked with a sweet tomato sauce and topped with plenty of cheese. A slice will run you $1.45, and an entire plain sixteen-inch pie is still under ten bucks. Plan to go the whole way: Just think what a great hangover breakfast that leftover pizza will provide.

It's 1 a.m. on Saturday, and after all that Friday night drinking, you're hankering for a slice. Time to head to Two-Fisted Mario's for a one-two punch of pizza. Run by two guys, John Skogstad and Kevin Delk, who feel your pain, Mario's is the kind of place that truly wants to be there for you until 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The hours when you can grab a slice aren't this pizza's only assets, either: It's a well-crafted, thin-crust pie slicked with a sweet tomato sauce and topped with plenty of cheese. A slice will run you $1.45, and an entire plain sixteen-inch pie is still under ten bucks. Plan to go the whole way: Just think what a great hangover breakfast that leftover pizza will provide.

Cook Street School of Culinary Arts
One Friday every month, Cook Street, a culinary college, opens its doors to downtrodden commuters for an after-work sampling of fine wines. Not only is the party reasonably priced at $25 per person, but it comes with various hors d'oeuvre prepared on the premises by a master chef. Best of all, this beat-the-traffic happy hour unfolds in LoDo, so you can stroll right from the haute tidbits and the audacious nose of that beaujolais to a swank, overpriced bistro to make a few comparisons. Glass dismissed.

One Friday every month, Cook Street, a culinary college, opens its doors to downtrodden commuters for an after-work sampling of fine wines. Not only is the party reasonably priced at $25 per person, but it comes with various hors d'oeuvre prepared on the premises by a master chef. Best of all, this beat-the-traffic happy hour unfolds in LoDo, so you can stroll right from the haute tidbits and the audacious nose of that beaujolais to a swank, overpriced bistro to make a few comparisons. Glass dismissed.

Colorado's once-obscure Western Slope vineyards are gaining quality and stature with each new vintage. Witness the sublime Cabernet Sauvignon made by Canyon Wind, a young winery owned by Norman and Ellen Christianson and overseen by the well-respected Napa Valley winemaker Robert Pepi. Intense and complex, the 1996 cab is deep purple, well-balanced and bursting with mature fruit. At $20 a bottle, the stuff is not inexpensive, but it's exactly the right accompaniment to a slab of rare prime beef or herb-crusted lamb chops.

Colorado's once-obscure Western Slope vineyards are gaining quality and stature with each new vintage. Witness the sublime Cabernet Sauvignon made by Canyon Wind, a young winery owned by Norman and Ellen Christianson and overseen by the well-respected Napa Valley winemaker Robert Pepi. Intense and complex, the 1996 cab is deep purple, well-balanced and bursting with mature fruit. At $20 a bottle, the stuff is not inexpensive, but it's exactly the right accompaniment to a slab of rare prime beef or herb-crusted lamb chops.

240 Union Restaurant
Courtesy of 240 Union
Most of the wines at 240 Union come in between $20 and $30, and many cost even less, making this comfortably chic eatery even more of a good thing. The savvy cooking of chef/part-owner Matthew Franklin is fine on its own, but it's even better paired with fine wines. Select from such interesting compilations as "Cutting Edge" or "Nothing Boring," play it safe with a "Comfort Zone" red, or just pick at whim. Your glass is bound to be more than half full -- and at a fair price.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of