Earlier this month, we shared our list of the ten best Italian restaurants in metro Denver, but what about looking for great pasta dishes from a gluten-free point of view? This week's request for recommendations comes from Tara:
I’m gluten free, and I love Italian food. I always find myself scouring the internet for good Italian restaurants that serve gluten-free dishes, especially pasta. It would be great to have a list of options.
Whether you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, someone who lives with a gluten intolerance, or you just prefer to avoid gluten, there are certainly wonderful options when it comes to Italian food in Denver. If you’re in the position of picking a restaurant to dine with someone who lives with celiac or identifies as being gluten-free, it’s wise to make it known when placing your reservation so the kitchen can be best prepared. Chefs take celiac very seriously, and they also want those living with gluten sensitivity to dine safely. Here are five Italian restaurants you can trust to serve safe, delicious Italian food with different occasions in mind.
955 North Lincoln Street Unit D
“We want to make your dining experience as easy as possible regardless of your food allergies,” says Ryan DiFranco, proprietor of DiFranco’s, a quick service Italian restaurant in Denver's Golden Triangle area. DiFranco opened his restaurant with the mentality of offering a flexible menu, with each dish easily adjustable to cater to gluten-free guests. All salads, sandwiches — even pasta, thanks to Colorado-born Cappello’s gluten-free products— are available sans gluten for a small upcharge. While DiFranco’s is not a certified gluten-free kitchen (keep in mind that few are), the restaurant takes every precaution to avoid cross-contamination with other dishes or items that contain gluten. “When it comes down to an allergy such as celiac, we will sanitize every utensil and make sure we eliminate all other potential causes of cross-contamination. New utensils, new gloves, sanitized cutting boards — it all helps us ensure a dish is 100 percent gluten-free,” adds DiFranco. DiFranco's is the perfect destination when you're craving Italian food but don't necessarily want to fuss with a reservation and just want someone else to do the cooking.
3264 Larimer Street
Dio Mio recently opened its doors in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, featuring Italian small plates and fresh pasta made daily. It was an easy decision to offer gluten-free options, according to chefs/co-owners Spencer White and Alex Figura. “We don’t want people with gluten sensitivities to fear ‘the pasta shop,’” White explains, which is why all of the pasta (except the stuffed pasta) can be substituted with Cappello's and served with the same presentation as the gluten-rich pastas he and Figura have been developing since departing Lower 48 last fall. White and Figura offer gluten-free options with confidence by using separate work areas for gluten-free prep, as well as separate cooking tools — down to the pasta pot. Dio Mio is ideal for a quick and casual night on the town, and will soon open for lunch service.
909 17th Street
Panzano is perhaps one of the city’s earliest champions of gluten-free dining thanks in large part to former executive chef Elise Wiggins, who discovered she was gluten-intolerant well into her professional cooking career. Panzano, now under the command of executive chef Patrick Kelly, continues to offer some of the most approachable gluten-free Italian menus in the city. “We have a separate printed menu for each meal period,” says Kelly, “and we can provide gluten-free bread and pasta options, as well as accommodate any request if it is within our power.” Kelly avoids all possibilities of cross-contamination by overseeing gluten-free production in separate areas of the kitchen, and insists that when a gluten-free request is made, the order is watched very carefully. Panzano is a perfect restaurant when seeking a little pampering.
400 East 20th Avenue
When chef and proprietor Paul Reilly opened Coperta earlier this year, offering gluten-free was a bit of a natural occurrence. “It just so happens that a lot of Roman and southern Italian food that's not pasta is naturally gluten-free,” says Reilly, who keeps all gluten-free production separate from other dishes containing gluten. “They're delicious dishes, which helps make it easy to feature gluten-free options for our guests.” And while Reilly is more than happy to take the extra measures to ensure that a dish is truly safe for anyone with celiac or a severe gluten-intolerance, he insists on the importance of guest information. “Chefs are not doctors. A celiac guest needs to be informed about their own limitations and then tell us what they can and cannot eat, and we will fill in the gaps. Tell us what is safe for you to eat, rather than the other way around. We are happy to cater to guests' allergies, but the more aware our staff is about what is safe, the better.” Coperta is a great option when looking for a date night or a nice night out with friends in Denver's Uptown area.
1453 Larimer Street
Osteria Marco, located on Denver's historic Larimer Square, has long had a reputation for its fresh burrata cheese and pizza, but gluten-free? While not implicitly advertised on the menu, executive chef Burton Koelliker shares that most of the menu can be prepared gluten-free, even the pizza. "We accept all people with open arms and a multitude of options for them to choose from. Our service staff is highly knowledgeable and can highlight all of our gluten-free items. From our wonderful housemade