[Update November 1 at 2:22 p.m.: After closing in late September because of a kitchen fire, Tarvenetta is scheduled to re-open for business on Thursday, November 9 beginning at 11 a.m. ]
Last night, LoDo welcomed another restaurant with the opening of Tavernetta, next to Hotel Born in the back of Union Station. The Italian restaurant is the third concept from Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, following Boulder’s award-winning Frasca Food & Wine as well as Pizzeria Locale. But, the team is quick to remind you that Tavernetta will carve its own identity within the Italian trifecta.
While still elevated, the menu and setting at Tavernetta are more casual than Frasca. With a cozy, white brick fire place instead of white table cloths, Tavernetta feels like home. The restaurant winds like an old house, passing through a large, open kitchen on your way from the front bar and lounge to the dining rooms in the back. We already predict a turf war over the chef’s counter and the tables overlooking the pasta-making station.
“We’ve been talking about all of this for a long time. It already feels like our home,” general manager Justin Williams said. “It felt great to see it come to life last night. It was super high energy and packed, and we hope to be that way for a long, long time.”
Just one morning after opening, the exhibition-style kitchen was already bustling — Williams said that he left the restaurant last night at 2 a.m., and he was back just after 4 a.m. Running on adrenaline and excitement, his face showed no signs of weariness, though.
“It’s like having a child. You’re so emotionally connected to [the opening] — we all are,” Williams said. “We absolutely had a glass of champagne together last night, but then we took a deep breath and realized it was time to focus again… We can breathe now, but you also try to figure out what you can do better the next day. That’s what we’re about.”
Leading the kitchen and bar are two Frasca veterans — wine director Carlin Karr and chef de cuisine Ian Wortham. Wortham said he’s excited to apply what he’s learned from traveling all through Italy to Tavernetta’s menu.
“At Frasca, we focus on Friuli-Venezia Giuliahere [in northeastern Italy],” Wortham said. “Tavernetta will explore all regions of Italy.”
With a traditional Italian menu progression, Tavernetta features antipasti, secondi and contorni options. With classics like Ravioli alla Norma ($17) with tomato, eggplant and mozzarella to more unfamiliar options like the Agnello ($26) — a Colorado lamb leg steak with cipollini onion and pistachio, there’s surely something for every Italian food lover.
Although there’s no brunch menu, Tavernetta will offer daily lunch, with a smaller menu and lighter options like the Salmone Affumicato ($14), a smoked salmon salad with dill ricotta, arugula and capers. It’s buttery, light and the perfect mate to a glass from its extensive champagne list.
“It’s great to be done with the opening, but it’s not over,” Williams said. “We just started.”
Tavernetta is located at 1889 16th Street, Denver. It is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. t0 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
All photography by Alexandra Palmerton, unless otherwise noted.