My husband and I recently enjoyed a happy culinary experience at Acova Restaurant, located in Denver’s popular Highlands neighborhood. Opened in June, 2018, by owners Betsy and Sean Workman, the restaurant is situated in the same spot where its storied Italian predecessor, Patsy’s, used to be.

What’s great about Acova is that even if you don’t have a babysitter, you can enjoy the date-night atmosphere on the restaurant’s cozy patio with your kids, which includes a play area called “The Nest” (cova means “nest” in Italian). We didn’t have our kids with us, but we explored “The Nest” to see what it was all about. And we were impressed.

Kids can participate in playful and unstructured learning activities in this non-treated mulch area while their parents can enjoy great food, conversation, and unique cocktails. From the Lego wall which lets kids use their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, to the magnetic wall for language development and letter and word recognition, each element of “The Nest” is designed for cognitive and physical development in a fun atmosphere. To expand upon Acova’s child-friendly atmosphere, the restaurant also donates $2 from each kids’ menu item ordered to a local children’s charity each month.

The restaurant itself offers global selections of cuisine that have flavors from the Italian tradition to gastropub. We started off with a light and delicious seared ahi tuna dish served over herb and parmesan polenta cakes, and a spicy carrot-jalapeno slaw with lime and rice vinaigrette.

For the main dish, my husband ordered what has become a big seller, Fisherman’s Stew, which is a combination of fresh mussels, calamari, crab, cod, onions, white beans, saffron tomato broth and crostini that he reported to be a palate pleaser – a tasty balance of spice, seafood, and smooth broth that was not too thick or watery.

I enjoyed a rich and tasty Broadway Lobster Mac + Cheese for the main dish, which consisted of lobster, bacon, cheddar, panko crumbs, prosciutto crisp and chives. It’s creamy, heavy and nicely textured, but it’s also filling, so I took some of it home for my son, who devoured it.

Other menu items rangefrom Gnocchi Michoacan and Chimichurri Cauliflower Steak to Veal Osso Bucco and the extremely popular Honey-Stung Fried Chicken. In addition, Acova offers a variety of handcrafted cocktails, rotating local beers, and a variety of wines.

While we were fully satisfied by the time dessert came around, the options included assortments like Cinnamon Bread Pudding garnished with bourbon caramel sauce and Sweet Action Ice Cream, or a Very Berry Cobbler with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cinnamon streusel topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. We’ll have to save some room to savor these treats on our next visit.

Driven by the Workman family’s own health-conscious and gluten-free lifestyle, they are mindful of dietary restrictions with plenty of gluten-free options, where every dish champions fresh, sustainable ingredients, with ample choices for people who have dietary preferences and different tastes.

“The Acova name reflects exactly who and what we are,” said Betsy Workman. “We really wanted a neighborhood go-to spot where people can eat many times a week for any occasion. The area continues to expand which shows that the people of Denver are constantly evolving in taste and culture. We think the concept and its offerings will resonate particularly well in this location.”

As we were enjoying the end of our meal, we met Chef Matt Miller, who greeted us with the kind of welcome familiarity and openness you’d expect from a friendly local eatery. Clearly proud of his offerings, he’s thrilled to be a part of a kitchen that creates an eclectic menu for all lifestyles and dietary restrictions.

Not only can you find what you want during lunch and dinner, but Acova offers a fun kids’ menu, has a daily happy hour between 3:00 and 6:00 pm, and features an ample and hearty brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday mornings. During brunch, customers can even make their own Bloody Mary’s and coffee concoctions.

For more information, visit: Acova Restaurant.