Happy Hour

Hello, Happy Hour: Dig Into Pasta at Dio Mio

Dio Mio front.
Dio Mio front. Westword
The key to a great happy hour is the magical combination of solid drinks at a price that doesn't make you regret going out on a weeknight paired with food specials and an atmosphere that makes you forget all your workday struggles. There are plenty of options in and around Denver, but we're aiming to find the best happy hours around. At Dio Mio the happy hour may be short, but it's also sweet.

What: Dio Mio

Where: 3264 Larimer Street

When: Happy hour is 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday


The deal: Choose from a list of three $5 appetizers and two $11 pastas; two-for-$8 glasses of red or white house wine; the weekly featured cocktail or Dio Negroni for $8; and a $3 lager

For more info: Visit diomiopasta.com
click to enlarge MOLLY MARTIN
Molly Martin

The place: RiNo is one of the best areas in Denver to go out to eat. It's packed with bars, breweries, distilleries and restaurants, including a couple of Italian ones, yet there is nothing quite like Alex Figura and Spencer White's Dio Mio. The concept is fast-casual, so guests order at the counter and there's no traditional waiter service. Because of this model, the goods come quickly, which is handy since the happy hour is only an hour long. Arrive as close to 5 p.m. as possible, and you should be able to get a couple rounds of orders in (there's often a wait by 6 p.m.).

Dio Mio is also a vibrant place to be, full of energy from the moment it opens. Inside, there are two- and four-person tables for dining, as well as a community high-top. And while the weather holds, outdoor picnic tables are available, as well.

On a recent visit, our table near the kitchen had the advantage of catching a projected episode of CNN's Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. As Tucci toured a region of Italy, we watched pasta being made fresh in the open kitchen while eating bite after bite from our plates.
click to enlarge One of the two pasta dishes on the Dio Mio happy hour menu. - LINNEA COVINGTON
One of the two pasta dishes on the Dio Mio happy hour menu.
Linnea Covington
What to order: Simply put, you should order all five options on the happy hour menu — and double that if your party is larger than two. It's all perfectly executed and filling, making dinner an afterthought.

For $5 (all the time), get the Elevation salami plate. The thin-sliced cured meat is topped with chopped Castelvetrano olives, dollops of puréed apricot and a crunchy seed mix that gives each bite texture. Two hefty slices of tangy grilled sourdough topped with whipped ricotta drizzled with a fifteen-year-old balsamic vinegar and piled high with luscious prosciutto is also $5 (normally $14, making this an unbeatable deal). Rounding out the $5 menu are the artichokes, the only vegetable you'll see, which come tossed in black butter with orange segments, croutons and a green olive sauce (normally $9).

Then there are the two pastas. First up is the cacio e pepe, which has become a staple at Dio Mio. The dish is a rich and peppery classic. Here, it gets a fun boost thanks to the frilly, freshly made mafalda pasta, which looks like mini lasagna noodles, and a generous sprinkling of pink peppercorns. Get the spaghetti too, another standard featuring traditional red sauce and a whole lot of parmesan. Both of these pastas, $14 on the regular menu, are just $11 during happy hour.

To drink, the wine is perfect with all the dishes, red or white, and you get two glasses for $8. Yes, it's possible to share, but the glasses are small, so the chances of wanting two for yourself is high. The weekly cocktail changes regularly, but always costs $8 during happy hour. Or opt for the Dio Negroni for $8 (normally $12), made with gin, a red aperitivo and sweet vermouth. Finally, beer lovers can get a cold High Hops Brewery lager for $3 (regularly $5).

Although this happy hour is short, it's okay to load up the table with food and drink and spend an extra hour after it ends to hang out, stuffing your face with carbs and imbibing with friends. Maybe you'll catch the whole episode of Searching for Italy and be inspired to order even more pasta for the table, happy hour or not. 
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Linnea Covington moved back to Denver after spending thirteen years in New York City and couldn't be happier to be home, exploring the Mile High and eating as much as possible, especially when it involves pizza or ice cream.
Contact: Linnea Covington