Parts of Angelo's Taverna look like a converted church, with stained-glass windows and brick arches facing East Sixth Avenue. That's fitting, because the restaurant is my brunch holy grail, a rare offering of Italian flavors, grilled oysters and hangover-friendly drinks and dishes served for only a few hours a week during the summer. The Oyster Social Brunch, as Angelo's calls it, runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only on Sundays, and only through Labor Day.
Angelo’s is known for quality oysters served raw or grilled every day, but at brunch the topped and grilled shellfish seem like a special treat. The Original has a white wine and garlic base, but there's also chipotle barbecue, Gorgonzola-bacon and a rotating weekly special. I tried both the Original and the Gorgonzola-bacon, and both proved loaded with both flavor and toppings, so much so that a fork is required, rather than just slurping straight from the shell.
The rest of the brunch menu is small but contains some unique offerings. Angelo's recommends the Pazzo Moccho as the best hangover cure. With arancini, sausage, and fried gnocchi heaped in a bowl and covered in marinara sauce, mozzarella and a fried egg, there were certainly enough fried and fatty things to dispel any lingering symptoms that the oysters hadn't taken care of.
Next up: the carbonara pizza, the classic pasta dish re-created in pizza form. A cream-sauce base with peas and bacon covers Angelo's chewy pizza crust; a pair of fried eggs completes the carbonara theme. The bright yellow yokes are just soft enough to mingle with the sauce for added richness.
East Coast transplants will appreciate the pork roll breakfast sandwich, made with New Jersey-style pork roll that's only beginning to catch on in Denver. Angelo's version is more like ham steak with eggs and cheese on a buttery bun — not exactly what I was expecting, but a good sandwich nonetheless.
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Bloody Marys and mimosas run $4 apiece, but it’s the bucket of craft-beer cans that turns out to be the best deal; it comes with a bartender's choice of five Colorado brews and enough ice to keep the cans chilled throughout your brunch. We ended up with Dry Dock Apricot, Avery White Rascal, Black Shirt Brewing Timekeeper, Telluride Face Down Brown and a PBR (you can't win ’em all). At only $15 for all five, ending up with one industrial beer wasn't such a bad thing.
Brunch drinks also include oyster shooters. We had the Hader shot, which is named after general manager Jason Hader and is made with whiskey and the house Bloody Mary mix. A raw oyster lurks at the bottom of the shot glass, and a slice of bacon laces the top of the shot as a perfect salty chaser.
Hader and owner Eric Hyatt are old friends from New Jersey, and the Garden State influence is clear on the menu. After a few bites, it’s obvious that Angelo’s creates authentic Italian recipes based on Hader and Hyatt's younger days. You can taste more of that old-school Italian on the lunch and dinner menus, especially in the handmade pastas and slow-cooked sauces.
Angelo's is located at 620 East Sixth Avenue; brunch is served in the dining room and on the restaurant's secluded patio on Sundays only. Call 303-744-3366 or visit the taverna's website for more details.