Brasserie Brixton
Molly Martin

Decidedly un-stuffy, with a fun, modern take on French cuisine, Brasserie Brixton opened in the summer of 2020 as one of the most exciting new additions to Denver's culinary scene. But then pandemic restrictions put a damper on the party, and the restaurant temporarily converted into a pizzeria in order to survive. Now it's back to doing what it does best: offering dishes like steak tartare with truffled egg jam, and duck with radish cake, alongside natural wines and low-key, neighborhood-eatery vibes.

French 75
Bonanno Concepts

When French 75 originally opened in 2017, it was a pretty classic take on a French brasserie, but with its 2021 reboot following an eighteen-month pandemic-related closure, it feels like a completely different place. The decor didn’t change, but the energy and menu sure did. Some former staples remain, but they're offered in a new and improved way — like the French dip now served on a soft roll baked by Milk Market's LoDough Bakery. And it now has a roster of unexpected additions, including the lobster ramen that gained a cult following at Frank Bonanno's now-closed Bones; pork dumplings served in a gochujang butter; an eclectic playlist; and $1 pours of Prosecco flowing during happy hour.

Spuntino
Danielle Lirette

Dining at Spuntino is like poetry. In fact, Elliot Strathmann, who owns the restaurant with his wife, chef Cindhura Reddy, composes playful poems about Spuntino's new dishes that he shares on Instagram. The couple has been running the intimate eatery since 2014, and managed to keep every employee working through the pandemic — quite a feat in an era of mass layoffs. Here, hand-rolled pastas and braised meats are the stars, and Colorado-raised goat and creamy arancini have become signature items. At the bar, Strathmann has amassed a collection of Italian amari (some of which he makes himself) that give diners one more reason to linger.

Restaurant Olivia
Joni Schrantz

Pasta perfection: That's what you'll find at this Washington Park restaurant from the culinary dream team of Heather Morrison (front-of-house hospitality expert), Austin Carson (who heads up the bar) and pasta-making pro Ty Leon. Olivia opened in January 2020 — terrible timing for a fine-dining establishment. But it made it through the pandemic one lasagna to-go at a time, and now it's back to focusing on what it does best — which includes Leon in the kitchen folding pasta into intricate shapes for your wonder and amusement.

Best Frozen Italian Food
Molly Martin

If your idea of frozen food is just Stouffer's mac and cheese and Trader Joe's, well, everything, think again. Some of Denver's best Italian food is being made by Kelly Crobu and her husband, Mario, a native of Sardinia. The longtime industry pros started selling frozen meals to family and friends as a side hustle, but with ample free time during the pandemic, they officially launched Casa Crobu in July 2020. All of the food is made in a commercial kitchen, and none of it sits for long, which means the frozen lasagna Bolognese delivered to your door was likely made the day before — and tastes that way, no matter when you decide to cook it. The Crobus also sell several specialty items, including culurgiones, a Sardinian filled pasta that's a cross between a pierogi, a dumpling and ravioli.

casacrobu.com
Gennaro's
Sarah McGill

There's nothing innovative about the seventy-year-old Gennaro's, and that's just the way we like it. From the black-and-white-checkered linoleum floor to the weathered wooden bar, every nook and cranny of this joint screams nostalgia. Naturally, that extends to the menu: You won't find "twists" or "takes" on anything here, just satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs Italian-American classics. Start with an enormous loaf of garlic bread and marinara or fried ravioli for the table, then chow down on the aptly named colossal calzone, Italian sandwiches, pizza or sausage and peppers. The neighborhood atmosphere is bolstered by regular trivia, live music, open-mics and bingo nights.

Redeemer Pizza
Molly Martin

When Spencer White and Alex Figura, the owners of fast-casual pasta hit Dio Mio, started toying with the idea of getting large deck ovens in order to expand their baking capabilities, the concept morphed into a pizza place. Enter Redeemer, which debuted in July 2021. An entry through the back alley marked by a neon slice sign leads to the slice window, where you can pick up one of that day's specials: New York-style and thick Sicilian options are both available. In the front dining room, you can order whole pies along with appetizers, wine, cocktails and more. All of the pizza is made on sourdough crust, but Redeemer mixes its artisan approach to dough with classic, craveable components like ooey, gooey, low-moisture mozzarella. Don't forget to order sides of both the hot honey and dilly ranch dipping sauce.

Best Pizza From a Non-Pizzeria
Kayla Jones

This LoHi restaurant from the Culinary Creative Group is a standout in the fine-dining Italian scene, but while its pastas, brunch and happy hour are all notable reasons to visit, ordering a pizza here is a must. Chef Russell Stippich, who took over the kitchen at Bar Dough just before the pandemic put the kibosh on indoor dining, has finally gotten the chance to hit his stride, which includes perfecting Bar Dough's, well, dough. The wood-fired pies come in several options, including a classic margherita, with seasonal topping combinations like the Il Sovrano, with mortadella, spring onion, ricotta di bufala and garlic oil.

Audrey Jane's Pizza Garage
Molly Martin

It was her mom's sesame-crusted pies that sparked Audrey Sherman's longtime love of pizza, which led to a mentorship under thirteen-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani before she opened her own place. Since October 2015, Sherman has been slinging pies from a small spot tucked away on the back side of a shopping center. While whole pies — including the sesame version — are on the menu, those in the know wouldn't dare make a trek through Boulder without a pit stop at the Garage for the gigantic (seriously, they're huge) slices, which come out hot and fast.

Pizza isn't food that often inspires a road trip; usually, the best pizza is the one closest to you when the craving strikes. But Rosalee's is worth a trip. It specializes in what it calls "old world East Coast style" pies, which are based on American immigrants' earliest takes on what's now one of the most popular foods in the U.S. With a slight char and topped with hand-grated cheeses, sauce made with the highest quality tomatoes and additions like house-ground pork sausage, Rosalee's pies are available in both round and thicker square-cut versions. Bonus tip: Don't skip the sausage knots.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of