North Italia: Great Modern Italian and an Upbeat Vibe in Cherry Creek

I have to be honest: I don’t often think of Cherry Creek when I’m looking for a fun place to go for dinner. Very often, Cherry Creek lives up to its stereotype of being an expensive, pretentious neighborhood. However, I’ve recently discovered that there’s also a lot of great food to be had in Cherry Creek — and great in a foodie way, not in a “I just paid $50 for this steak, so it must be good” kind of way. One of the places I definitely recommend visiting is North Italia (190 Clayton Lane), which is a more modern, upbeat version of your traditional Italian restaurant (but still with delicious, made-from-scratch Italian food). And it’s surprisingly affordable!

The Atmosphere & People

Maybe I’ve judged Cherry Creek too much, but I was pleasantly surprised by how “cool” it was in here. Apparently, North gets pretty packed on a daily basis. It has a fun, upbeat buzz that makes it a really great place to come with friends or on a date. And the staff is young and friendly and great to chat with (if you’re sitting at the bar). I really couldn’t find anything to even complain about (which is pretty rare for me).

North Italia inside

The Drinks & Food

There’s some great Italian wines here (duh), but I would also highly recommend trying the Julietta cocktail (even though it’s $10). I’m a sucker for cocktails with herb- or spice-infused liquor. And this is a vanilla- and ginger-infused Smirnoff with St. Germain, lime, and prosecco. It may look a little girly, but guy or girl, you should give it a try.

North Italia cocktail

The menu pretty much had me at “Heirloom Beet Salad” (I’m a sucker for beets). It’s a mix of roasted golden beets, apples, arugula, hazelnut, ricotta, and lemon crème fraiche. Now, I’m not usually one to rave about a “salad,” but this salad is pretty damn amazing. It’s not one of those “here’s a bunch of arugula and 3 pieces of beets” kinds of salads. The hazelnuts were a pretty genius addition, too. I’d eat it every day.

North Italia beet salad

If you knew me, you’d know how hard it was for me not to get the beef short ribs ($25) or the prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin ($22). But the “Bolognese” is the house specialty, so I felt like on my first visit here, I had to give it a try. And oh man am I glad I did. For just $16, you get a bowl of made-from-scratch pasta smothered in an amazing meat sauce, and topped with grana padano cheese. It definitely tastes like it’s made-from-scratch and is bursting with great Italian flavors, and even though it’s not your traditional Spaghetti Bolognese (as you can tell from the photo), I actually like this better. A flat pasta just holds meat much better than a slippery round noodle (and it’s important to get all that meat!).

North Italia bolognese

The Happy Hour

If your concern is more about the price, North also has a great Happy Hour (3-6pm Mon-Fri and all day Sunday). You can get $4 glasses of wine or sangria, $16 bottles/pitchers, $3-$4 snacks, $8 pizzas, a $10 board of meat/cheese, or a $20 bottle+pizza or bottle+board. I did that last one the last time I was here — and man what a deal that was! Pretty hard to beat as far as happy hours in Cherry Creek go!