This week, LoHi welcomed another new restaurant — Marcella’s Ristorante, Pizzeria and Wine Bar. From the same restaurant group as Ocean Prime — which is opening another Ocean Prime in the Denver Tech Center next summer — Marcella’s Denver is the third location for the Italian restaurant, but it’s the first in the Mile High. The other two are both in Columbus, Ohio.

Marcella’s was named after the cook and house manager at a villa in Tuscany that I visited many times with my family,” said Cameron Mitchell, CEO and founder of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. “When we created the concept for an Italian restaurant, we thought it was only fitting to name the restaurant after Marcella and her authentic Italian cuisine. Everything we serve at Marcella’s is just the way Marcella would have made it.

The Space

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Marcella’s is a brightly lit, larger version of a trattoria from Tuscany — complete with bright red awnings, detailed ceiling tiles and gold detailing. Although it comes from the same group as Ocean Prime, Marcella’s feels like a casual, Italian cousin to the more formal steakhouse.

Seating 152 guests inside and 40 outside on the patio overlooking downtown Denver, the restaurant isn’t small by any means, but it maintains a community atmosphere with its casual t-shirt clad staff, wine served in water glasses and its warm lighting. Bonus — they also have complimentary valet every night for dinner.

The Food & Drinks

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If you’re going to go Italian, you’re probably wanting wine — and we’d suggest any of the Chianti’s on the list to pair with the Tuscan food — and Marcella’s serves its selection by the glass, half bottle or whole bottle. As if the cocktails, sangria, local beer and more than 50 wine options weren’t confusing enough, we’ve always found Italian menus to be the most difficult to order from — only because there are so many tempting options, it’s hard to choose just one. Marcella’s is no exception. From cold antipasti and warm appetizers — like the melted Pecorino cheese ($13) served with crostini, fresh apple and truffle honey — to the pastas, pizzas and specialty entrees, it was hard to pick just one thing. But, when our waitress called their braised veal meatball the “eighth wonder of the world,” we were sold. It larger than a softball, it comes as an appetizer ($10) or on top of several pastas — including the spaghetti ($17) with marinara and grated parmesan and the fettuccini ($17) with torn bread crumbs, alfredo and tomato marinara. We ordered the former, but in any forms, that meatball really is heaven — crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, it breaks open with a tiny push of the fork.

If you’re looking for a way squeeze in some veggies, we loved the Antipastis — the section with six cold dishes. You can choose three options for $18 or five for $24, but one of them has to be the Sicilian Caponata with roasted eggplant, salad, olives and capers.

If you’re planning a visit with friends, we suggest bringing a bunch — with nine pizzas, seven pastas and nine other specialty and featured entrees, you’re going to want people to share with. Although I’m pretty sure we won’t be sharing the Crispy Potato Pizza ($16) with pancetta, parmesan onions, taleggio cheese and arugula next time we’re there.

Marcella’s is located at 1801 Central Street, Denver. It is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.and dinner from 4 p.m. to midnight; Sunday for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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