What: Big flavors served in a cozy, comfortable neighborhood setting.

Where: 2639 West 32nd Ave., Denver

Neighborhood: Highlands

When: 5-6:30 p.m., Tuesday-Friday & Sunday 

Pros: Whether made in-house, sourced locally, or chosen for their superior flavor, high quality ingredients are the focus here. Pro Tip: It’s pronounced “spoon’tîno.”

Cons: Happy hour specials are available at the bar or patio only. 

As Denver has grown, the Highlands has become known for its ample selection of neighborhood eats. But while many restaurants in this area are often inundated by big crowds and long waits, there are still a few more hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Spuntino, with its relaxed atmosphere and stream of regulars, is one Highlands eatery that’s still got its neighborhood charm intact. Part of that appeal can be traced back to the fact that Spuntino’s owners, husband and wife team Elliot Strathmann (general manager) and Cindhura Reddy (executive chef), run this restaurant with an ample helping of passion. Filled with dark wood used for both the floor and the bar and pops of color thanks to flowers from nearby florist The Perfect Petal, this restaurant is inviting and comfortable yet still feels luxurious enough for a special night out.

For a taste of what makes Spuntino stand out, though, head in for happy hour and score both food and drinks that aim-high in the flavor department while keeping the bill low.

The Drinks

All photos by Camille Breslin.

The Old Man and the Mountain (left) and the Bourbonator (right). All photos by Camille Breslin.

When I eat Italian, wine is my beverage of choice. At Spuntino’s happy hour, vino-lovers can get their fill with house wines for just $5 a glass. This includes two whites, two reds, and a prosecco for those looking for a little bubbly. And, because this is Colorado, beer isn’t overlooked here either. Spuntino’s beer list includes craft brews from across the country ($1 off during happy hour) including local favorites like Renegade’s Redacted IPA as well as some selections that are less common around town, like the Counter Clockweisse sour from Illinois’ Destihl Brewery.

The best boozy deal here, though, comes in the form of $5 cocktails. Four of Spuntino’s regularly offered libations as well as any traditional spirit-based concoction (like a gin & tonic) are available at this happy hour price. These drinks regularly range from $8-$10, so you’re getting a hefty discount with this option. Options include the playful, Hemmingway-inspired old man and the mountain, a rum-based drink featuring house-made maraschino cherry. Another summer-ready choice is the bourbonator, a mix of Four Roses bourbon and fresh lemon freshened up with the addition of basil. Or, if none of the listed cocktails are calling your name, be sure to ask the bartender for any daily specials and you might be treated to an experimental creation.

The Food

Spuntino's antipasti with house-made porchetta.

Spuntino’s antipasti with house-made porchetta.

Happy hour eats are all about sampling a restaurant’s goods and getting a taste (literally) of what it can do. At Spuntino, one item in particular embodies this restaurant’s ability to create delicious food with care, from scratch: house-made porchetta (available as one of the $5 antipasti options). Traditional porchetta is an Italian classic. A boneless pork roast is transformed via slow roasting into a succulent, tender treat. At Spuntino, the porchetta is cured overnight with a mixture of garlic, herbs and seasoning before being roasted to perfection and served for happy hour with accompaniments like house-cured peppers and pink peppercorn mustard. Bursting with flavor that will keep you going back for just one more bite, this item is a must-order.

The antipasti ($5 each) selections allow you to customize your order, adding as many items as you please from choices that also include prosciutto di Parma and a rotating selection of cheese. The other standout item among the happy hour eats is the seasonal bruschetta ($2.50 each). With each of Chef Reddy’s unique flavor combinations, you can expect a new spin on this classic. Currently, you can choose from a rich gorgonzola-topped version spiked with sweet wildflower honey or a more savory variety which features speck (a type of prosciutto), hearty broccoli rabe and tangy house-pickled peppers. Or, for a perfect date night, order the Spuntino picnic basket ($9) which comes with the chef’s choice of meat and cheese, mustard, pickles, and the highlight: warm, buttery focaccia bread made fresh in house.

Whether it’s a special night out or you’re just in need of a mid-week pick-me-up, Spuntino’s combination of carefully crafted food and reasonably priced drinks will make any happy hour adventure here a satisfying experience.

All photos by Camille Breslin.