Bringing Italy’s Finest Wines to Colorado

After a weeklong winery and vineyard tour throughout Italy, Carmine’s owner Brad Ritter is back on American soil with a head full of wine knowledge and a belly full of authentic Italian cuisine. We’re not jealous..

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Thanks to Dalla Terra Winery Direct – a direct importer of Italy’s finest wines – Brad was invited to attend a ‘Giro d’Italia’ for a behind the scenes look at where Carmine’s wines come from. This trip gave Brad the opportunity to meet the people who spend their days at the vineyards and in the wineries actually producing our wines – starting from the vine, to the grape, and finally, to the bottle. Learning about the wine making process first-hand allows us to appreciate and truly understand the wines we serve our customers.

Brad’s adventure began on the southeast coast of Italy, which is bordered by the Adriatic Sea. After enjoying the coastal life for a few days, the group traveled northwest to the Tuscany region, where a handful of Dalla Terra producers are located. To close out the trip, the group enjoyed their last few days in northern Italy and the “The Floating City”,  or Venice as we like to call it.

Photo Credit: Dalla Terra

With so many wonderful sights, smells and tastes captured in Brad’s memory, it seems impossible not to share them all. Join us for our next Tour of Italy dinner and wine pairing on October 14 and enjoy your own Italian sensory adventure! More details coming soon.


The Little Black Dress of Ingredients

Throughout the history of fashion, the little black dress has become known as the essential staple in every woman’s closet. And when it comes to the Carmine’s menu, we have a staple of our own.

So what is this dress-me-up, dress-me-down, night or day ingredient we can’t live without?

It’s basil. 

The basil plant is one of the most widely known and grown herbs in the world. Often associated with Mediterranean cooking, basil is native to India, Asia and parts of Africa. As a member of the mint family, basil has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and offers a healthy dose of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese and magnesium. It’s no wonder we use it in so much of our cooking!

One of our favorite basil-touting recipes at Carmine’s is homemade gnocchi. Served in roasted pomodora sauce with kalamata olives, we toss in torn basil to maximize the dish’s flavor. We also slide some basil in our seafood dishes and use it to enliven our Panzanella (bread salad).

Basil is also the main ingredient in pesto – a mixture of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pesto appears in many places on our menu, and even just a small amount can take a dish to the next level.

Of course, we don’t limit our use of basil to food. Our new specialty cocktail, the Carmine’s Cooler, is a blend of Cruzan Light Rum, Tommasi Prosecco and fresh-squeezed lime, made perfectly refreshing thanks to muddled basil.

This summer, we encourage you to discover new ways to use basil in your own cooking (or drinking!) at home. And the next time you come in to Carmine’s, we promise there will be plenty of basil to go around.


Why We Give Back: Community Support at Carmine’s

When we took over Carmine’s nearly ten years ago, I was surprised by the number of solicitations for donations we received. It was our standard practice at the time to give a gift certificate to just about anyone who asked. But I could see that this was not a sustainable practice and questioned the true value of these donations from a both a philanthropic and marketing perspective.

Then the recession hit in 2008, really changing the financial realities for many people. Our business declined substantially as well. As the dust was settling, I realized that we were still in good shape and felt a need to support the local community in some way and to share our good fortune with others. My wife and I debated several ideas with a real focus on how we might “feed” people in need.

This led me to the head of The Delores Project. She agreed to meet with me and hear our “brilliant” idea. I wanted to open the restaurant for one day a year and feed anyone for free. She politely told me this was not only a bad, potentially chaotic plan, but that this one day of helping would not spread very far. So our plan evolved. We chose to select as many charitable partners as we thought we could support and then design specific ways that we might help each one.

Fast forward to today. We have used our restaurant space for special gatherings, catered events, and hosted dining evenings where substantial portions of the proceeds are directed to our partners. Each fall, we entertain presentations from organizations that ask for our support. We are naturally drawn to certain types of organizations. Specifically, we have worked with groups dedicated to homelessness, children and schools. We try to determine if our support will be important to the recipient either financially or in a way that helps to build up an organization. We want to evaluate each organization for their ability to deliver to those in need and use our donation wisely.

This month, we are proud to support the work of two local organizations – Project Angel Heart and The Denver Waldorf School. On Tuesday, April 28, we are hosting a fundraising dinner for The Denver Waldorf School and will be donating at least 50% of the evening’s food sales to the school. My three children attended Waldorf Schools from preschool through high school, so l am acquainted with the wonderful work done by dedicated teachers in this system. Not only that, but The Denver Waldorf School moved back to our neighborhood in 2014 and is celebrating 40 years in Denver! We wish to support their continued growth and capacity to serve children.

Then on Thursday, April 30, we are joining over 250 restaurants throughout Denver and Boulder to participate in Dining Out for Life to support Project Angel Heart – a nonprofit whose mission is to deliver nutritious meals to Coloradans with life-threatening illnesses. Save the date to dine out with us and we’ll donate 25% of the evening’s food sales to Project Angel Heart!

We hope to see you soon, and thank you for your continued support.

-Brad Ritter, Owner 

Wines at Carmine’s


Does anyone age wine anymore?

Once it was standard practice for a restaurant to purchase wine with the intention of aging before presenting to the consumer. But today, market pressures make this quite rare as the cost of inventory, space, and knowledge limit the opportunity.

Here at Carmine’s, we strive to offer a simple, uncomplicated wine list composed of all Italian wines (which can be very confusing to consumers). We are committed to serving the finest wines we offer after some extended aging in an effort to show the true sense of Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello di Montalcino wines, for example.

Recently, we were offered the current vintage (vintage = the year the grapes are harvested) of these “big three” to add to our wine cellar. We tasted 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages. We try to project development of these “young” wines so that they can be offered in a rotation with other purchased wine when they are more ready for the consumer.

Some of these same wines are on our wine list today from the 2001, 2004 and 2006 vintage! We will try to save a couple of bottles from special vintages for those times when a consumer is really searching for something special. So we typically have a few bottles of quite special and more aged wines when requested. This category represents a small corner of our total wines sold, but it occupies a large portion of interest and intrigue as we get to follow these wines in their development.

Next time you dine with us, feel free to inquire about the following wines:

Cogno “Vigna Elena” Barolo 2004

Allegrini Amarone 2006

Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2006

Pe’re Allesandro “Vigna Giaia” Barbaresco 2001

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2006

Buon Viaggo: A Tour of Italy

Last week, our well-traveled Assistant Manager Stephen hosted a Tour of Italy dinner and wine tasting based on his recent adventures in Italy. We had an amazing turnout, with a little over 20 guests filling up our back room to enjoy an evening of culinary indulgence!

As the group enjoyed their first beverage – Borgo Magredo Prosecco – Stephen shared his international travel tips, including the best times to visit Italy. Going in the spring? Expect a bit of rain. Summer is typically busy, as it’s a popular vacation time. Love wine? Experience the fall harvest! And of course, you can’t pass up the skiing when you visit in winter.


Stephen then moved on to explaining the geography of Italy, which is very important when considering the country is one of the most popular wine growing regions in the world, and the 4th largest producer. The various climates and soils of Italy allow for a wide variety of grapes to be grown. Tuscany has your Chianti. Find your favorite white wines in the northeast. And look out for Sicily! This area is up and coming in the wine world.

All of this wine talk wouldn’t be complete without some Italian food, so guests were served Antipasti Carmine’s alan Rolatini along with samples of two white wines – Torre Rosazza Savignon and Umani Ronchi “Casal di Serra”.

Stephen then moved on to serving House and Caesar salads, which were paired with a rose wine – Rivera Pungirosa, and a lighter red – Vignamaggio Chiati Classico. And for the main course? Bolognese, Pasta Carcio, Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Pazzo with two full-bodied red wines – Giacosa Fratelli Barbaresco and Michelle Castellani “Colli Christi”. Delizioso!

Finally, the evening concluded with dessert and a sweet Moscato – Marenco “Pineto”. Lots of food, lots of wine. Now that’s what we call a Tour of Italy.

Want to attend the next Tour of Italy? Stay tuned for future dates by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And be sure to check our online calendar for more upcoming events!

***Wine buying tip: All the wines listed above are available at any liquor store in Colorado. If we have access to it, so does anyone purchasing in the state. The rare exception is a wine so hard to get your hands on, it winds up being purchased by restaurants exclusively. Wherever you shop for wine can get these for you. They may ask you to purchase a case if they don’t carry it. If so, don’t be afraid to ask for 10-15% off which is the standard discount on case purchases.


Join us for Denver Restaurant Week

Mark your calendars for February 20 – March 1 as we celebrate Denver’s culinary scene during Denver Restaurant Week. Bring your friends and family together to enjoy a multi-course family style meal for just $30 per person.

Choose one of each:


Tour of Italy

Ravioli alla Vodka

Sausage and Peppers


Antipasta Misti

Portobello Mushrooms

Zuppa di Mussels






Entrees (all served family size)


Chicken Montana


Pasta Carcio

White or Red Clam Sauce

Shrimp Calabrese

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Besciamella

Chicken alla Carmine’s

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Pazzo

Baked Ziti w/Italian Sausage

Baked Ziti w/Bolognese

Baked Ziti w/Vegetables

Baked Ziti w/Meatballs

Seafood Fra Diavolo

Moose’s Pasta

Shrimp Parmigiana



Three Layer Chocolate Cake


Chocolate Chip Cannolis

New York Style Cheesecake

We also have vegetarian and gluten-free options available!

Want to really feel like a winner during Denver Restaurant Week? Enter The Pursuit of Culinary Perfection Contest by Lexus and you could win a Passport to the City for you and a guest! Tour the city in a luxurious Lexus, enjoy chef’s table seating at The Nickel, and a night’s stay at the Hotel Teatro. Enter to win here.

Share with The Delores Project

Tuesday, September 2 Carmine’s on Penn will host our fourth dinner to support The Delores Project. Please join us in this important evening. Last year’s event raised over $8500 for The Delores Project. We will offer many of Carmine’s favorites in a three course dinner served family style. The price is $45 per person and The Delores Project will receive $30 of this amount. We will also donate at least half of beverage proceeds. Employees are donating their hourly wages as well. The Delores Project has served women in need on the Denver area for over ten years providing much needed services not the least of which is housing.

Carmine’s on Penn will close on July 4th!

Carmine’s on Penn and Little Carmine’s Italian Sandwiches will close on July 4. We will Share the holiday with our families and hope you enjoy the day with yours. Please join us for our regular schedule on Saturday. Remember our patio is one of the finest locations to enjoy summertime dining. Ciao Down at Carmine’s!

Father’s Day at Carmine’s on Penn

Reservations are filling fast for Father’s Day, so please don’t delay to call us. We still have good space on Saturday. Come Ciao Down at Carmine’s and Share with your father.

Twenty Years at Carmine’s on Penn

Carmine’s on Penn recently celebrated our first 20 years of serving Family Style Italian Food in Central Denver. We are looking forward to many more. To share our birthday with us come in on Tuesday evenings. We are offering a 20 year promotion. 20 Years, 2 people, $20 each to share dinner. Choose from four salads and ten pasta entrees to share. Think about Chicken Montana, White Clam Sauce, Pork Polenta Ragu and more. Ciao Down with Carmine’s!