Zucca; Louiseville, CO
Excellent Italian in quaint atmosphere. Cozy feel, especially during a cold Colorado night. Love the fried calamari on happy hour menu. Antipasti cheeses always special. Monkfish (the poor man’s lobster) is to die for (when available). Good wine selection with helpful recs from staff. Divine St. Lucia olive oil served with their fresh-baked bread; it is the best! Usually a date night stop but is family friendly as well.

Food feeds the soul so I wanted to pass along a few of my favorite Colorado places.  These spots are local without pretension or attitude.   If you live or visit here (PSST, we've got great skiing!), hope you check one of them out.

Madera Grill; Louisville, CO
Great distinct cuisine. Relaxed, yet modern atmosphere. Cool lounge. My husband is a big fan of their artichoke appetizer which you take apart piece-by-piece. We both loved their lamb. Smaller but well chosen wine list.

The Post Brewing Co.; Lafayette, CO
Always packed and lively but very laidback. Open-air bar, nice sunroom, and big outdoor area. Heavenly fried chicken and roasted beet salad with goat cheese, our regular orders. Love their fries, Mac ‘n Cheese, and seasonal veggie sides. Great cherry pie as well, if have the room for it. Oh, and they brew great beer. It’s also one of the few breweries that offers a decent Sauvignon Blanc, my go-to wine when not drinking beer.

Sweet Basil; Vail, CO
Splendid. Excellent cuisine and service. We so enjoyed our meal, we ate there the next night as well. Pricey (it is Vail) but worth the splurge. Crowded even in a shoulder season so reservations recommended. We also had fun eating at the bar, chatting with others. A vacation find we still rave on about.

Oskar Blues; Longmont, CO
Best Mac ‘n Cheese ever! Yummy fried catfish, but can only get it on a happy hour sampler plate or in a Po’ Boy..

LuLu’s BBQ; Louisville, CO
We relocated from Kansas City so need to give a nod to barbeque. It’s also worth mentioning because it’s my husband’s office away from home. They recently installed new tables and I think we helped finance at least a dozen of them. Their menu is somewhat limited and I’m not always in the mood for what they offer, but the laidback vibe and Texas-bravado atmosphere is half the fun. Warning: Texas Slush can be dangerous. Great fried pickles, sweet potato tots (my kid loves), Mac ‘n Cheese. Good brisket and fried okra.

Root Down; Downtown Denver
Not cheap but excellent and interesting small plates in a seasonal rotation. Recommend beet salad and seared scallops. Love patio with downtown views. Hip vibe but not pretentious or alienating. Great service. Also have an airport location.