Openings and Closings

The Porchetta House Is Now Serving Lunch and Late-Night Food at Spices Cafe Off Colfax

The Original, loaded with sliced porchetta, arugula and pink peppercorn Kewpie mayo.
The Original, loaded with sliced porchetta, arugula and pink peppercorn Kewpie mayo. Molly Martin
"Ever since I could stand over a stove, I've wanted to cook," says AJ Paloni, the chef behind The Porchetta House, which opened earlier this month inside Spices Cafe at 1510 Humboldt Street.

Born in La Jolla in San Diego County, Paloni grew up in Albuquerque but moved to Arizona after finishing high school in order to fulfill his longtime dream of attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. After graduating in 2010, he stayed in Scottsdale for a couple of years and continued working in restaurants before heading to Durango, where he took a job at a country club, a position that led to a private chef gig for a well-known family in the area.

"That gave me an opportunity to really branch out and do whatever kind of food I wanted to do," Paloni recalls. He continued to expand his culinary knowledge during that three-year stint, but also "got mixed up in selling drugs," he says, and ended up serving a three-year term in prison.

After his release, he went to the now-closed Chinook in the Denver Tech Center for a stage. "They gave me a basket of ingredients and told me to create a dish. After not cooking professionally for three years, I was nervous as shit," he admits.
click to enlarge banh mi sandwich
The banh mi-inspired sandwich is made with porchetta that's marinated with red miso.
Molly Martin
But the dish he made ended up on the menu and landed him the job as sous chef. "That gave me a realization that this is what you're meant to do, and you don't need to supplement your income doing stupid shit," he says. "It was a big wake-up moment for me, and a reminder to pursue what I've always been meant to do."

After Chinook, he moved on to Parkside Village, a retirement community — and a gig that turned out to be ideal during COVID. Even as other restaurants were forced to close or pivot, the residents still needed to be fed, so the position offered stability during an uncertain time.

He'd been working as chef de cuisine at Tribe in Castle Rock for about a year and a half when its executive chef, Arthur Gonzalez, passed away last May. "The dynamic changed" after that, Paloni says. Tribe is where he'd first put porchetta on a menu, pushing a dish he's made many times over the years for family events. One day, he hoped to open his own concept with a focus on porchetta sandwiches.
click to enlarge sign in front of cafe
Spices Cafe has been focused on catering for the last year.
Molly Martin
Originally, Paloni considered putting that concept in a cloud kitchen, but the contract details were unappealing, so he turned his attention to other possible shared kitchen spaces. That's when a realtor connected him with Spices Cafe owner Michael Watren. For about a year, Watren has been running Spices Cafe, which had long been a spot for just breakfast and lunch, as a catering-only business, and he was looking for someone to use its kitchen in its off-hours — a setup that met Paloni's needs.

On March 7, he began slow-roasting porchetta and slinging sandwiches out of the space. Spices Cafe is directly behind Tight End, Denver's only gay sports bar, and guests can opt to sit on the connected patio facing Humboldt Street, where they can order Paloni's eats via a QR code while sipping drinks from Tight End's bar. In order to cater to the bar's patrons, the Porchetta House stays open late, until midnight Tuesday through Thursday and until around 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Paloni also recently added lunch hours Tuesday through Thursday.
click to enlarge porchetta fries
Each version of the sandwich is also available as loaded fries.
Molly Martin
On offer are a trio of hefty porchetta sandwiches ($16 each). The Original, an homage to Paloni's half-Italian heritage, is loaded with sliced porchetta spiced with Paloni's signature blend as well as arugula and pink peppercorn Kewpie mayo on a rosemary foccacia roll from Boulder's Breadworks. Paloni is also half- Hispanic, which inspired the al pastor version, for which the porchetta is marinated in an achiote rub for 24 hours, then slow-roasted, sliced and served with caramelized-pineapple pico and cotija cheese on a bolillo roll from a San Antonio bakery.

Rounding out the options is the banh mi version. "I have a huge love of Asian food," Paloni notes, and he wanted that passion reflected on his menu. The banh mi porchetta is marinated for 24 hours in red miso and served with cucumber, pickled carrots, jalapeños, cilantro and black sesame Kewpie on bread from Vinh Xuong Bakery.
click to enlarge porchetta lollipop
A hefty, al pastor-inspired porchetta "lollipop."
Molly Martin
While the Original is the way to go for purist porchetta lovers, the best plan of action is to take a couple of hungry friends along and order all three, since these are such completely different (yet all very tasty) flavor profiles. Each version can also be ordered as loaded fries ($14) or as porchetta "lollipops" ($13), aka very thick slices of the meat on a stick.

Paloni isn't sure what the future holds for the Porchetta House — he's considering everything from a food truck to a stand-alone brick-and-mortar. But for now, Spices Cafe is the ideal first home for this meaty new addition to Colfax.

The Porchetta House is located at 1510 Humboldt Street and open from 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to around 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin

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