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Tradition Revived

Denver's Own Chef Jeff Schwing Transforms a Local Staple

Article by Sarah Katz

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Cherry Creek Lifestyle

This past April, a Southeast Denver community favorite, Piccolo, announced it was closing its doors after 50 years. The restaurant, which served Mexican and Italian cuisine, was sure to be missed by the surrounding community. Despite the sad news, this vacancy gave Denver chef Jeff Schwing a new spot in the city to call home and bring Italian cuisine back to the neighborhood. Along with business partners Eric Allen and Fred Altberger, they used the opportunity to make their dream of opening a restaurant a reality. Their newest venture, Provolino, offers Italian food at a friendly cost with salads, subs, pastas and pizza with the inspiration of conveying “…nostalgia, family, comfort, home, service, community…”

The trio behind Provolino had hopes of opening a restaurant together for several years without finding luck. “Finally, around May of 2023, everything fell into place," says Jeff Schwing, Provolino's chef and co-owner, "A location became available, all the partners were in a good place to transition, the price was right, and we had a plan.” The team’s initial plans were to open a French bistro before Altberger brought this opportunity forward. They chose to honor the location's roots and stick with Italian fare, which had previously occupied that space, “We chose Italian food because it didn’t make sense to do anything else in that space," says Jeff, "Piccolos had been there for 50 years. Putting any other concept there would have meant starting from scratch. Italian food gave us a great starting foothold.”

Provolino is Jeff’s first project since working as a chef in some of Denver’s high-end French restaurants, “I was inspired by the opportunity to go off on my own," says Jeff, "take a risk on something I have wanted to do my whole life.” With his previous roles focusing on French cuisine at restaurants such as Chez Maggy and Brasserie Brixton, he committed his time to diving into Italian food. “The menu went through 27 iterations from conception to print,” says Jeff. Despite his departure from French cuisine, Jeff and team are leaning in and enjoying this next adventure, “I am having an absolute blast cooking Italian food, and my team is too," says Jeff, "We use great ingredients, and we cook things the right way. We try not to cut corners and I think that shows in the food.”

The Provolino founders have known each other for years after being introduced through their love of food and the industry. While the restaurant has only been open for a couple of months, Schwing, Allen and Altberger have intentions of opening more restaurants in the future, but for now are focusing on Provolino and its success. “I think at the end of the day Provolino truly is a locally owned, family business," says Jeff, "Come in on any day and we are there. We really appreciate our neighbors and everyone who has come to check us out. We hope to be there for a long time serving honest food to good people.” 

The menu showcases a variety of traditional Italian options ranging from fried calamari for starters, and classics like chicken parm, rigatoni alla vodka and fettuccine alfredo. On top of the mouth-watering pasta and salad selections, the freshly baked pizzas and calzones are another highlight on the menu. You can try their pizza and more from Tuesday through Sunday or head over for a daily happy hour from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.