Tavernetta makes its highly anticipated debut, bringing Italian regional cuisines to the platform at Union Station

The team behind Frasca Food & Wine is ready to open the doors on its latest project.

Acquasale: heirloom tomato, mozzarella, breadcrumb and basil. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Chef Jessica Essen rolls dough for gnocchi. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Chef Jessica Essen rolls dough for gnocchi. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The team behind Frasca Food & Wine has finally opened the doors on its latest project, Tavernetta.

The highly anticipated restaurant started serving this week at 1889 16th St., bringing flavors from every region of Italy to the platform at Union Station.

We’re regional focused … and I think that was something that was welcome, something that I know was really important when we were starting to create the menu and test the menu. We just don’t want to put ourselves into one region, we wanted to go all over,” said general manager Justin Williams. “From the bread to the pasta — it’s really everything.”

Executive Chef Ian Wortham at work. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Executive Chef Ian Wortham at work. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Executive chef Ian Wortham, formerly the chef de cuisine at Frasca, traveled to Italy four times this year and has been reading up on the various styles of cuisine in order to build and, going forward, develop Tavernetta’s menu.

Some of the current dishes are recipes he brought directly back from Italy, while others have been inspired by his reading.

The acquasale, for example, is essentially a prettier take on a more rustic tomato, bread and olive oil dish from Tuscany, which he read about in a book on Tuscan food.

Acquasale: heirloom tomato, mozzarella, breadcrumb and basil. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Acquasale: heirloom tomato, mozzarella, breadcrumb and basil. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“The most interesting thing about cuisine like Italian cuisine is that there’s so much history and there’s a reason for things and you can learn about why people do a certain dish one way,” Wortham said. “Having that tradition behind it makes it easier to execute better food that’s just delicious to eat because you’re not worried about going off on little tangents with flavors. That, I think, is a really important thing when we’re talking about Italian food.”

While it’s not 100 percent seasonally driven, the menu will change a bit with the seasons as the currently fresh produce lets Wortham’s recipes wander from region to region.

“Tomatoes are in season — we can go more towards the south,” Williams said. “And we can go to the north in the winter.”

(Stray thought: I would go to Tavernetta just to sit there and eat the focaccia.)

Ravioli Alla Norma: tomato, eggplant and mozzarella. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Ravioli Alla Norma: tomato, eggplant and mozzarella. Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The wine selection, chosen by wine director Carlin Karr, is of course entirely Italian. The bar program also includes traditional Italian cocktails like a bellini and a negroni in addition to Tavernetta’s take on Italian style.

They’ve also got champagne, which as Williams points out is “a huge part of Italian drinking culture.”

Champaign at Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Champagne at Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Perhaps surprisingly for a restaurant that sits just off the tracks at Union Station, Tavernetta has a lot of space. There’s a front-room bar area, a 12-seat private dining room, two main dining rooms and two small patios. There’s also a little space in the open kitchen — which connects the front room to the dining rooms — called Bobby’s Eddy, with two small tables stationed for a front-row view of the pasta-making.

Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tavernetta is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 

Reservations are already filling up. You can make them online or call the restaurant at 720-605-1889.

A gin and tonic at Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; restaurant; union station; downtown; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado; denver;
A gin and tonic at Tavernetta on 16th Street by Union Station. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, 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.