Pupusas Lover 2 opened on Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder on Jan. 20, 2023. Credit: Jessica Mordacq

The first two months of 2023 are almost over, and we’ve already seen several new restaurants open in Boulder. Others will soon launch or move locations this year. Hapa Sushi is moving a few doors down to 1068 Pearl Street in the spring. And the site of Caffé Sole in South Boulder, which recently closed, is becoming the second branch of Boxcar Coffee Roasters in March. BRL spoke with the owners of four new (or relocating) restaurants. 

Stella’s Cucina, opened Jan. 4, 2023

Stella Spanu’s father is an Italian chef and restaurateur who came to the United States in his late 30s. His daughter, raised in New York City and Rome, would follow in his footsteps, opening Italian restaurant Stella’s Cucina in downtown Boulder this year. 

“Having grown up in Italy, I was like, where can I get food [in Boulder] that I would find at any restaurant or trattoria in Italy? Why can’t I find something like that?”

Spanu moved to Boulder to attend CU about a decade ago and never left. Four years ago, she started planning what Stella’s Cucina would be and searching for the right building.

Early in January 2023, Spanu opened Stella’s Cucina at 1123 Walnut Street, after working with an architect to design an Art Deco-inspired interior. 

The restaurant’s oven is from Italy, along with the coffee, wine and flour. But she also follows the tradition of Italian restaurants: sourcing ingredients locally.

“One of the best parts about Italian cuisine and dining is that they utilize what they have around them,” Spanu said. She sources lamb and produce from Masa Farms, Niman Ranch and Superior Farms, as well as from greenhouses in the winter, to satisfy Stella Cucina’s seasonally changing menu. 

Stella Cucina’s Tuscany-born Chef Filippo Piccini creates the restaurant’s recipes with input from Spanu. Spanu’s favorites, she said, include tagliolini all’agnello — pasta with lamb, white ragu, mint and pomegranate seeds — and milanese di vitello, a thinly pounded, breaded, bone-in veal chop that serves two with an arugula side salad.

Stella’s Cucina opened in Boulder on Jan. 4, 2023. Courtesy of BFA

Stella’s Cucina is closed Mondays. It serves dinner from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. A D.J. plays on Fridays and Saturdays after the kitchen closes. Spanu plans to open for brunch and lunch.

Pupusas Lover 2, opened Jan. 20, 2023

After moving to the United States from El Salvador in the 1990s, and briefly living in Los Angeles, sisters Claudia and Sylvia Quijada opened Denver’s Pupusas Lover in 2018. They wanted to share with others their mother’s home cooking, especially her pupusas, the rice or flour flatbread stuffed with cheese, meat or veggies.

Soon after it opened, Claudia said they started looking to expand in Boulder.

“I always said that I want [a location] in Boulder because we come here to hike in the summertime, and I love it,” Quijada said. She knows several people who live or work in Boulder and are from Chalatenango, a municipality in El Salvador. They encouraged her to open a second location. “In Boulder, they need to know about Salvadoran cuisine,” Quijada said. There are no other Boulder restaurants that serve Salvadoran classics (outside of the La Pupusa Loca food truck).  Last year, a friend told the sisters about a space at 2525 Arapahoe Avenue that fell within their budget, and Pupusas Lover 2 opened last month. 

From left to right, sisters Silvia, Claudia and Angelica Quijada. (Angelica has three locations of her own restaurant, Pupusas Paradise.) Photo courtesy of Pupusas Lover

Though similar to Denver’s location, Pupusas Lover 2 has fewer menu items, for now. 

The sisters developed their restaurants’ gluten-free menu and are training Boulder’s new kitchen hires to make traditional pupusas, along with tamales and enchiladas. (The Salvadoran version consists of beans, vegetables, cotija cheese and a hard boiled egg on top of a fried tortilla.) With time, they plan to offer more menu items, as well as cocktails and sangria. 

Most of the food is made from scratch, including the tortillas, chorizo and aguas frescas, or sweetened fruit juices. The restaurant also makes its own horchata de morro, the Salvadoran version of the popular Mexican favorite, made with water instead of milk, plus cinnamon and sesame seeds.

Nopalitos, reopening March 2023

Milton Guevara opened burrito shop Nopalitos in May 2019, after working at Illegal Pete’s for 22 years and helping the chain expand. Come March, Nopalitos will relocate to the 29th Street Mall from Diagonal Plaza, which is undergoing redevelopment. 

A year ago, Nopalitos’ landlord in the Diagonal Plaza wanted the counter-service restaurant to sign a one-year lease with the stipulation he could give them a 90-day warning to relocate if he chose to sell the building. 

Wanting more stability, Guevara began looking for a new location on Pearl Street or 29th Street Mall. He settled on the latter, where Nopalitos’ competitors include Chipotle and Qdoba.

“I think we’re going to be the only Boulder-owned restaurant inside the 29th Street Mall,” Guevara said. 

At the old spot on Iris Avenue and 28th Street, Nopalitos received little foot traffic. Though surrounded by offices with workers, many of them started working remotely during the pandemic. 

In the 29th Street Mall, where Daikon Banh Mi used to be, Nopalitos’ square footage (and the menu) will be about the same as its previous location. Though the new kitchen will be smaller, the restaurant ordered extra fryers to accommodate guests who are gluten-free or vegan, rather than frying tortilla chips in the same oil as fish as many restaurants do. 

Before opening in March, Nopalitos will submit paperwork for city approval to add a 14-chair bar, larger than the restaurant’s previous one. 

Postino WineCafé, opening spring 2023 

Lauren Bailey — CEO of Upward Projects, the restaurant group that manages Postino WineCafés around the U.S. — co-founded the first Postino, which opened in 2001 in Arizona. 

For years, Bailey had been looking to expand to Boulder. When 1468 Pearl Street opened up, she jumped at the chance to launch a restaurant and wine spot in town.

“Being right in the action on the Pearl Street Mall, surrounded by so many great neighboring restaurants and businesses, is a dream location for us,” Bailey said. 

Every Postino location has an eclectic focal point, often sourced from vintage pickers. In Denver, the LoHi location has a book wall and the Broadway spot displays decoupage concert playbills. The Boulder restaurant will boast over 300 square feet of reclaimed roller skates, a nod to the scene in “Mork & Mindy,” which was partially filmed in Boulder, when Robin Williams skated down the Pearl Street Mall. 

Postino is opening at 1468 Pearl Street in Boulder in spring of 2023. Courtesy of Postino WineCafe

Boulder Postino’s menu will change seasonally, but will always feature bruschetta, charcuterie boards and shareable bites. 

The wine menu will consist of over 30 rotating varieties. Postino offers happy hour daily until 5 p.m., when all glasses of wine are $6. The wine bar also serves 10 beers on tap, including ones from Colorado breweries. 

Jessica Mordacq is a contributor to Boulder Reporting Lab focused on local food and drink coverage. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has previously written for various trade and lifestyle magazines. Email: jessica@boulderreportinglab.org.

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