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Sean O’Brien
Nestled in Denver’s LoDo neighborhood, Jovanina’s Broken Italian made its debut last November.

Caught in a Restaurant Romance

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The couple behind Jovanina’s Broken Italian proves that nurturing a new concept isn’t so different from nourishing a relationship.
By Liz Barrett Foster Sapore

Every restaurant has a story. Some develop out of a lifelong desire to cook for others, some open to fill a community’s need, and some blossom out of the love of two people. A few restaurants combine all of the above. This is the story of Jovanina’s Broken Italian in Denver.

Jake and Jennifer Linzinmeir met while studying at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in New York, more than two decades ago. “We didn’t date in college, but we were good friends,” says Jake Linzinmeir, co-owner of Jovanina’s. “We had both fallen in love with Colorado and ended up starting our careers in the mountains between Vail, Aspen, and Telluride.”

Sean O’Brien
The menu at Jovanina’s takes inspiration from Jennifer Linzimeir’s Sicilian roots but with a Colorado locavore twist.

The two found success separately with several restaurant projects throughout Colorado and elsewhere over the years. “We’ve always traded tips and visited each other’s restaurants and helped each other out through the years,” Linzinmeir says. “Finally, we spent some real time together and realized what we could share as a couple.”

The Linzinmeirs married in 2016 and went on to open Jovanina’s in November 2018. The restaurant is Jake’s ode to Jennifer, whose Sicilian family calls her Giovannina. The menu draws from local Colorado ingredients and takes a fresh, modern approach to Italian with shareable vegetable-forward dishes, seafood, steaks, and chops.

For many restaurant couples, balancing a relationship and a restaurant can be tough. Linzinmeir says that having off hours makes a real difference. “Denver has always been unique in that it’s acceptable to be closed one or two days a week,” he says. “This makes a big difference on all levels, not just for us as a couple, but for our team. It’s really hard to relax when the restaurant is open, even if you’re not there.”

Jake and Jennifer Linzimeir
Jake and Jennifer Linzimeir first met at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration more than 20 years ago before both working the Colorado restaurant scene and ultimately marrying in 2016.

Linzinmeir says it’s important to remember that nothing in a restaurant is worth getting angry over. “The business is about finding solutions, and sometimes they may not be exactly what you want, but it allows you to get through and learn and find a better way for next time,” he says. “The same holds true with relationships in the restaurant and being able to listen and find a path to success, which may not always be linear or immediate, but you get there.”

Like many restaurant couples, Jake and Jennifer Linzinmeir will celebrate Valentine’s on a day of their own choosing. “We will both be on planes headed to different ends of the country on the 14th, so we’re going out together the night before,” Linzinmeir says. “With restaurants, it’s not so much about the date as it is just making sure to carve out the time for the sentiment. It may be a week earlier or a week later, but make sure you celebrate.”