When a small café named Spuntino opened in the Highlands in 2011, no one could have guessed what it would become. Originally a gelato shop, the space has evolved into one of Denver’s finest Italian restaurants guided by its current owners, Elliot Strathmann and head chef Cindhura Reddy. The duo had been working in the restaurant under the previous owners until in 2014 they decided to take the leap and make Spuntino their own.
Having traveled and worked in Italy together in their 20s, Strathmann and Reddy set out to cultivate a seasonal Italian menu built on a reverence for Italian traditions with local flair and space to innovate. The result is old-world classics like local El Regalo Ranch goat ragu served on Pappardelle ($ 27) sharing the menu with uniquely Colorado dishes like an Alce Crudo with Wild-tracked Rocky Mountain elk tartare ($ 18). The attention to detail sets them apart from other restaurants with each pasta made from scratch and rolled by hand, like their Cavatelli — a dumpling pasta with stinging nettle pesto, Duroc pork sausage, pistachios and Pecorino ($ 26).
“We wanted to be the kitchen where everything is made from scratch and nothing is wasted,” said Strathmann.
But perhaps the most exceptional thing about the restaurant is the philosophy that guides them. By taking care of their employees and encouraging their cooks to innovate and build upon the base of tradition they have been able to put out incredibly unique dishes without sacrificing quality. elk tartare, for example, features a toasted masala aioli and ajwain seed crisps — a nod to Chef Reddy’s South Indian roots.
The restaurant never closed through the pandemic and even expanded employee benefits during that time. By offering to-go wine tastings and having holiday specials — including a bunny costume-clad delivery driver for Easter — they managed to weather the storm with panache.
“Figure out what’s important, the rest is just details,” said Strathmann.
The beverage menu features a carefully curated wine list with an impressive selection of Italian bottles. Every second Wednesday diners can enjoy themed wine flights of their favorite small production wines at the corner of the bar with a small group of like-minded drinkers.
“Wine is an encapsulation of a life well lived — Of farms and producing something you really care about, ”said Strathmann.
Besides the wine list, Spuntino also infuses its own liqueurs. While they started with a classic Italian limoncello, they quickly embraced their adventurous spirit and their traditional roots and started foraging local herbs to infuse their own House Amaro. The cocktail menu follows suit — starting with classics like a Negroni ($ 12) and progressing to creative concoctions like the La Parola’F'($ 12) featuring CapRock Farmhouse Gin, Spuntino’s Finocchietto, Luxardo Maraschino, Lime, and a Boozy Cherry.
And their efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the spring of 2020, both Reddy and Chef di Cuisine Austin Nickel were nominated as semi-finalists for James Beard awards. In spite of the incredible food and high acclaim, Spuntino’s maintains its neighborhood vibe. is a place for Highlands regulars to gather in peace — enjoying the fruits of a dedicated staff and a brilliant chef guided by an ethos that is built to last.
Spuntino is located at 2639 W 32nd Ave, Denver. It is open from 5 – 9 pm Wednesday to Sunday.
All photos courtesy of Spuntino.