How to get cheap, great Italian food in the Denver area (by leaving Denver)

Step 1: Go to Lakewood.

The menu at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
The menu at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
The menu at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

In my five years in Denver, I’ve been on a low-key quest to find the kind of cheap, ultra-casual and delicious Italian restaurants I grew up with. It hasn’t been easy.

A couple places, particularly Trattoria Stella, come close price-wise, but I was still missing a certain feeling you only get in old, family-owned joints. The kind of places where all the staff are related.

I finally figured out how to scratch that itch. (And if you’ve got more or better ideas, let me know: adean@denverite.com.)

Step 1: Leave Denver. Go to Lakewood.
Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

There you’ll find Café Jordano tucked away in a strip mall at Kipling and Jewell.

Step 2: Accept the wait. Make peace with it.
Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

From what I’ve heard, if you show up to Café Jordano for dinner and don’t have to wait a little while, you’ve hit the jackpot.

We showed up at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and waited about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Get a bottle of wine.
Good wine choice at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Any wait for dinner can be improved by approximately 78 percent by some wine. The bar had selections of bottles for $20 and $25. The bottle above was our second

Step 4: Make decisions.
The menu at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

There are a lot of options.

Step 5: Go a little overboard on appetizers.

IMG_9852

We were so hungry we devoured most of the apps before I remembered to take a picture, but here are the remains of some Caprese and crostini. The latter is garlic bread topped with prosciutto and melted mozzarella.

Step 6: Dig in to the main course.
Linguine and clam special at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

That was the special — linguine with mussels and a pesto cream sauce.

Greg's Favorite at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Greg’s Favorite at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

That one’s Greg’s Favorite — chicken cutlet in spicy red arrabbiata with bacon and mushrooms, topped with cheese.

Pollo alla Firenze at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

That’s the pollo alla Firenze — chicken and fettuccine in a cream sauce with spinach.

Pollo al pomodoro at Café Jordano, 11068 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
(Ashley Dean/Denverite)

And that’s the pollo al pomodoro — sautéed chicken in olive oil sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil over pappardelle pasta.

Step 7: Smile at your bill.

It’s $29 per person.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers culture and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.