Where to Go Next: Denver

F&W’s roundup of the best restaurants in Denver, including one run by a Wolfgang Puck alum and a pizza spot that serves house-made mozzarella. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the best places to eat in the country.
Wolfgang Puck alum Jennifer Jasinksi runs the open kitchen at Rioja. Photo © Steve Crecelius.

The Oven Following culinary school in France, chef Mark Tarbell spent an entire month in New York City on what he describes as a "mad search" for the perfect pizza. Twenty years later, the owner of Tarbell's in Phoenix still eats pizza four nights a week, a passion that's led him to open this new restaurant in Denver's Lakewood suburb. Diners sit on lime-green pony-hair barstools and eat lightly charred pizzas from wood-stoked ovens, heaped with local, organic ingredients, including spicy Italian sausage from Marczyk Fine Foods and Haystack Mountain goat cheese. The house-made mozzarella topping the pies is so good that it's served as an appetizer. And the wine choices are eclectic, ranging from a Stone Cellars by Beringer Pinot Grigio that goes for $4 a glass to a $110 bottle of Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay.

Rioja After 16 years of cooking, including 11 with mentor Wolfgang Puck, Jennifer Jasinski now has her own place, a lively downtown Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a copper-topped bar and swatches of exposed brick. Inside her shiny, open kitchen, Jasinski bakes 700 mini goat-cheese biscuits a day to keep Rioja's bread baskets full and she still has the wherewithal to cover slices of preserved lemons with a crisp, lacy tempura batter and serve red snapper in a mustard-broth ragù of clams, mussels, haricots verts and chorizo.

Updated July 2009

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PUBLISHED November 2005

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