Nonna's Chicago Bistro, named Best Italian in 2011 on Denver's 7 A-List, lures hungry passersby with a menu of Windy City–style Italian fare, more than 20 wines by the glass, and complimentary ciabatta bread with saucy marinara. The owners, a family of Chicago natives, dedicated Nonna's to their grandmother, whose passion for hearty, homestyle fare inspired their chefs to perfect such classics as chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and slow-cooked, Chicago-style ribs. Dinners pair with a glass of Italian Da Vinci chianti or a Californian 181 merlot, or assorted well drinks and domestic brews from the exposed-brick bar.
Nonna's Chicago Bistro's dining room provides guests with an elegant eating coliseum, boasting walls painted with grapevine designs and windows that welcome a breathtaking view of the Leaning Tower of Willis. The quaint eatery also fills ear canals with live music performed by jazz trios, classical guitarists, and country crooners on weekend evenings.
To say The Cork House Broker Restaurant is a wine restaurant that just happens to serve food wouldn't be totally inaccurate. The extensive wine list encompasses a wide range, welcoming bottles of sparkling and still, red and white, inexpensive and indulgent. Those who join the restaurant's wine club receive exclusive invitations to events such as wine dinners, tastings, cooking classes, and meet-and-greets with winemakers.
With that said, the restaurant’s chefs certainly know their way around the kitchen. Guests can pair their wines with a flight of carefully curated cheeses, made from goat's and cow's milks, or consult a dinner menu filled with timeless entrees including steak diane, french onion soup, and fabulous mussels. Meals unfold in the restaurant’s intimate dining room or under the patio’s generously shady cover of trees.
One of Denver’s oldest coffee houses, Paris on Platte, located in Lower Highland, is an artsy hangout for sophisticated students cracking the books and prowling the internet, caffeine junkies, philosophers discussing the world’s woes and old-timers wistful for nostalgia. The bohemian space, bedecked with kaleidoscopic artwork, creaky wood floors, weathered wooden booths and tables and a fully equipped barista counter, encourages lingering, and people post up for hours, sipping cappuccinos and snacking on sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas and a full board of desserts. At night, the adjacent wine bar, located next door, features live music, a chill vibe and a weekday happy hour from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
A wine tasting should take place without frills. At least, that’s what Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar’s owner David Schneider thinks. “The wine experience that a guest will have at Row 14 is all about trying and enjoying wine without the pretense that can be associated with it,” he explains on the restaurant’s site, adding, “Wine should be casual and conversational.” He opened his eatery in March of 2011 to bring his envisioned atmosphere—one that’s “sophisticated yet approachable”—to Denver. He partners an understandably extensive wine list with a menu that changes seasonally. All of the ingredients used are thoughtfully sourced from local farmers who adhere to sustainable practices. Items ranging from cheese plates and PEI mussels to lamb bolognese and roasted duck breast join glasses and bottles or reds, whites, and sparkling wines. The décor is minimal and modern, with sheer golden curtains matching honey-colored booths. Gray walls hoist abstract work above a deep brown, tree-like divider that runs through the center of the eatery. Overhead, gray lanterns cast soft light over the wooden tables, and an outdoor patio allows for al fresco dining.
Lala's imported-olive plate, served with roasted roma tomato and homemade crackers ($8), or the daily meat and cheese plate (3 for $14 or $6 each) are sociable starters to a wine-enhanced feast. Select from dozens of sips offered by the half glass and glass ($3.25–$20) or reserve bottle ($26+)—all organized according to types, tastes, and ability to withstand being thrown out of a fifth-floor window. Flatbread pizzas, served crispy, are Lala's standout dish. With an extra-virgin-olive-oil-and-roasted-garlic base, the Il David ($9.75) layers a blend of three cheeses, roasted garlic, oven-dried tomatoes, and Peppadew peppers with a generous smattering of herb-grilled chicken. The menu also includes salads and paninis ($7.75–$10.50). For dessert, the basil frolino ($5.50) sandwiches homemade basil gelato and fresh strawberries between lemon-hazelnut shortbread. Lala's also serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring blood orange mimosas and Bloody Marys ($6.50 each), and a variety of crespelles, frittatas, and brunchy pizzas, such as the pizza Durango with chorizo, scrambled eggs, poblanos, and fontina cheese.
Owners Rita and Eldon Larson constantly refine their eclectic cellar stocked with more than 700 varietals from every corner of the planet. During wine tastings, guests sample premium vinos such as Don Olegario Albarino and Vietti Nebbiolo. Throughout, knowledgeable and accessible staff members happily answers questions and demonstrate the 25 different pronunciations of the word tannin.
At the adjoining caf??s elegant tables, forks spear seared sea scallops and other savory entrees designed for pairing with selections from the 150-bottle wine list. Peckish patrons can also pluck heirloom prosciutto from charcuterie plates or bait traps for classy mice with morsels from 11 different cheese plates. Chef Jason Lee alleviates the stress of decision making with his prix fixe wine dinners, which complement entrees with appropriate sips.