Italian. Gluten-free. Usually not words uttered in the same sentence. But in Denver, at Panzano, an award-winning Northern Italian restaurant helmed for 12 years by chef Elise Wiggins who herself is wheat-intolerant and has a brother with celiac disease, they might as well be synonymous.
Wiggins, who opens her first solo project in mid-November (we’re excited about Cattivella in Stapleton), left a unique legacy at Panzano inside the Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver. Inspiring pastas
, pizzas, focaccia, muffins, and cannoli are not only prepared from scratch, but an extensive selection of them are prepared without traditional flour and glutens. Side by side with “normal” breads and pasta, there’s no way you can tell the difference. In fact, Panzano has been feted many times over the years for being Denver’s best Italian restaurant
. Panzano offers gluten-free menus for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, and happy hour.
Here are three other reasons I love this place:
1. Showy culinary choreography. The polished granite chef’s counter at Panzano, one of the largest in Denver, offers an inspiring interactive show with chefs prepping, cooking, and manning the grill station. Believe me: it’s better than Chopped
or Hell’s Kitchen
2. Gourmet Happy Hour
. Good luck finding a seat. This Denver Happy Hour that runs seven days a week from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. offers $6 specialty cocktails (I’m a fan of Incontrare with silver tequila, Campari, Solerno blood orange liqueur, lime, and blood orange soda) and such signature dishes as gnocchi con coniglio, scallopini di vitello and capesante for bargain basement prices.
3. Everything’s infused with love. Panzano embraced whole-animal butchery and local sourcing long before they became household words. But the true passion comes from the staff that, if not singing kumbaya in the back, somehow seem to all click together and really love what they do. Customers can’t help but walk away feeling loved, too.For more Denver dining and travel news, click here.