So where is the best Italian restaurant in America? Boston's North End? San Francisco's North Beach? New York's Little Italy?

Try Boulder, Colo., with the caveat that of course neither I nor anyone else has tried out all the candidates for best Italian eatery on this side of the Big Pond. (And that while the neighborhoods cited above have boatloads of traditional Italian eateries, their cities have better fine-dining options in other 'hoods, e.g. San Francisco's A16 and Quince.

Like the best Italy-focused restaurants on these shores Frasca Food and Wine homes in on a region: Friuli. All the cuisine in the homeland is regional, influenced by location, ingredients and influences from other countries.

Friuli Venezia Giulia borders Slovenia and Austria and is not as sun-kissed as its fellow regions to the south and east. Polenta and risotto are almost as prevalent as pasta. Cured meats, lamb and game are popular protein-base offerings. Frasca does all superbly, especially on a Monday-night tasting menu.

The service is cordial and wonderfully unobtrusive, and the wine list, chosen by one of the nation's top sommeliers, Bobby Stuckey,  is thorough and instructive. Frasca is one of five nominees (along with A16) in the James Beard Awards' Outstanding Wine Service category. Chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson already has won what a friend of mine calls a Jimmy the Beard Award.

Boulder is 30 miles from Denver, an easy (and scenic) drive. Food lovers spending more than a night in the Mile High City should do their darnedest to make the trip.