Courtesy of Joni Schrant/Restaurant Olivia

Restaurant Olivia Is Thoughtful Italian Cuisine at its Finest

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At home, you might consider pasta a boring basic for easy weeknight meals. Boil some water, toss in a box of store-bought spaghetti and serve.

 

But you really, truly haven’t lived until you’ve tasted fresh, house-made noodles—especially those on the menu at Restaurant Olivia.

 

The four-year-old fine dining restaurant in Denver’s Wash Park neighborhood doesn’t shy away from the repetitive, labor-intensive process of making pasta from scratch. On the contrary, chef and co-owner Ty Leon has made it his mission to perfect this time-honored Italian craft so that Denverites can feast on perfectly prepared plates of tortelloni, ravioli and tagliatelle (lucky us!).

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

Leon and co-owners Heather Morrison and Austin Carson opened Restaurant Olivia at 290 South Downing Street in January 2020, just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. They managed to not only weather that storm, but come out the other side with a loyal following of dedicated diners.

 

And don’t just take my word for it: When the Michelin Guide came to Colorado for the first time last year, inspectors added Restaurant Olivia to their “Michelin Recommended” list, writing that it was “one of the city’s hottest tables.” This year, Restaurant Olivia is hoping to come home with a coveted Michelin star and/or a Michelin green star, which highlights eateries with ultra-sustainable practices.

 

Austin Carson, Ty Leon and Heather Morrison are the co-owners of Restaurant Olivia. Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

“When Michelin reviewed our restaurant, we didn’t have any idea that they were coming to Colorado,” says Carson. “So, there was no strategy, no game being played. Who we were, and are, is a reflection of our values and our love for this industry.”

 

Accolades aside, what impresses me most about Restaurant Olivia is the team’s unwavering dedication to their priorities. They’re committed to delivering the best hospitality, food and beverages in the city. But, beyond that, they have a deep-rooted passion for protecting the environment—and they don’t just talk the talk, they actually walk the walk.

 

Courtesy of Joni Schrantz/Restaurant Olivia

 

For example, lobster spaghetti was one of the most popular dishes on the Restaurant Olivia menu. But after considering how much styrofoam was involved in shipping the crustaceans, the team decided to take it off the menu.

 

Restaurant Olivia also partners with companies like The Happy Beetle to dispose of hard-to-recycle materials. Earlier this year, on Earth Day, the restaurant hosted a mass recycling event for Denver residents to help keep plastic and styrofoam out of the landfill and raise awareness about the recycling process more broadly.

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

Restaurant Olivia hosts quarterly clean-up sessions in Wash Park, and they partner with Scraps to turn their food waste into compost.

 

“Sustainability is so important to me, as a mother and a restaurant owner,” says Morrison, whose daughter Olivia is the restaurant’s namesake. “I want the world to remain a conscious and sustainable place for my daughter, Olivia. If we continue to uplift and support businesses, restaurants and organizations prioritizing sustainability, we can safeguard our collective future.”

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

Sustainability is also on the menu: For its martinis and other cocktails, Restaurant Olivia uses Good Vodka, a spirit made from discarded fruit waste from coffee farms in Columbia. They serve rice from Cascina Oschiena, an Italian grower located in an ecological biodiversity protected area. They source venison from Maui Nui, a group focused on responsibly managing the invasive Axis deer population of Maui in a bid to restore ecological balance on the island.

 

And, next month, Restaurant Olivia is launching a month-long sustainability initiative focused on perennial grains and sustainable crop production. Starting July 1, Restaurant Olivia will roll out a new tasting menu centered around perennial grains, which farmers only have to plant once but can harvest from multiple years in a row.

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

The tasting menu includes dishes made from perennial wheat grown by the Land Institute, a Kansas-based nonprofit that’s championing perennial grains. Reservations can be made online or by calling the restaurant.

 

“Perennial grains are the future of the culinary industry,” says Leon. “They offer a sustainable solution to food security challenges while providing us with rich, diverse flavors to explore. By integrating these grains into our menus, we’re not only crafting innovative dishes but also supporting a more resilient food system for future generations.”

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

If you’re impressed by Restaurant Olivia’s noodles and want to learn more about the process, Leon teaches pasta classes on Saturdays throughout the summer. Or, if you’re looking for a fun activity for a group, consider arranging a private pasta class. During one of these hands-on sessions, you’ll learn about Leon’s favorite techniques and ingredients for making the perfect al dente plate.

 

Courtesy of Restaurant Olivia

 

And if you just can’t get enough Italian, you’re in luck: the Restaurant Olivia team is working on a new eatery called Emilia that’s scheduled to open in RiNo next year. Emilia will bring Restaurant Olivia’s sustainability ethos, impeccable service and decadent Italian fare to a 3,700-square-foot space on the first floor of The Current office building.

 

“Emilia will be a pure tribute to Italy,” says Leon. “We plan to feature a selection of antipasti, handmade pastas and delightful dolci, including house-made gelati. We are also excited to bring some of the beloved favorites from Restaurant Olivia to the table, reimagined with a twist that pays homage to Italy’s rich culinary diversity.”

 

 

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