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Bite Me

Second Helpings

But after an impromptu lunch thrown together by Savage while Cielo was still under construction, a meal that showcased the simple norteño cuisine that chef Marcela Guerrero (a former sous chef at both the Denver and Florida Tamayos) would be featuring on the menu, Colantonio decided that he wanted to be part of Cielo. "About a week after entering into the consulting arrangement," he said, "I just told them, 'I want to run this restaurant.'"

That was fine with Sims and Savage. After they worked out a contract, Colantonio came on board as a kind of operations manager, handling both the front and back of the house, overseeing construction, approving menus and shepherding Cielo through its long-delayed opening. He was happy with his position, thrilled about the restaurant and excited for the future. All seemed right with the world.

But things are about to change again. Colantonio got me on the red phone at Bite Me HQ last week to announce that his time as Cielo's manager is coming to an end. "I've been in this business since I was a teenager," he explained. "And I've learned that once you become an employee, no one listens to you anymore. I feel I've done as much as I can with Cielo. Six months in, I think they have a great product. I think the food is great. They have some really interesting things happening in the future. But I've decided to open a public-relations and restaurant-consulting business."

The time had come, he told me, when he had to take a risk and step out on his own. "You know, I've lived on both coasts," he said. "I know the restaurant business, and I'm still a fairly young guy, but my thing is not to operate a restaurant on a day-to-day basis. I sell food and I sell chefs. I don't want to be worrying anymore about the circuit breaker that blows on Saturday night or if the dishwashers are going to show up on time."

We spent quite a while on the phone discussing the future of Denver dining and his thoughts on what this town needs to really come into its own as the great food city we both know it can be. His career change could fill one of those needs, he said, since he wants "to do consulting services that are real. Sort of what my life has been about, making restaurants work. I know demographics, and I think I know what the people want. And I don't want to be the guy who just tells you that every idea is a great one and nothing ever goes wrong."

Colantonio will be staying on at Cielo through the transition but hopes to have his new office -- Colantonio Communications -- up and running in Cherry Creek before the first of November. And can you guess who his first clients are going to be?

Yup, he'll be handling all the PR and consulting work for Cielo, plus Sims and Savage's other restaurant, Lime, at 1424 Larimer Street, just up the block from his old stomping grounds at Tamayo. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Leftovers: Recently I've reviewed one very bad Italian restaurant ("Same Old, Same Old," September 11) and one very good one (see page 73). Another one that still thrills me -- the joint I keep sending people to whenever they ask where to get honest Italian food -- is Venice (5121 South Yosemite Street in Greenwood Village). Chef/owner Alessandro Carollo's bastion of country Italian cuisine has been a favorite since I reviewed it for my debut Cafe column ("Now, That's Italian," July 18, 2002) a few months after it opened, and it's been so successful that Carollo opened a second, larger Venice at 5946 South Holly Street, also in Greenwood Village.

Now the original is about to undergo a transformation. At the end of September, that Venice will shut down for nine days for a major overhaul of both menu and decor. The walls are being redone with murals of small-town Tuscan villages and views of the Chianti region of Italy; the ceiling is being painted to make the space seem more open; and the menu is being totally scrapped in favor of an all-Tuscan board of fare. And when the place reopens on October 7, it will also have a new name: Chianti.

The second Venice, though, will carry on the name, as well as retain the original Venice menu.

In other news, the space at Leetsdale and Forest Street that had housed Tacos Jalisco #2 until last month has already been snapped up. Come October, it will be the Blue Line Bar and Grill. Out in Lone Tree, Gregand Christie Methenyrecently opened the Dragonfly Cafe(7824 Park Meadows Drive), designed specifically with busy parents in mind: Worked into the design of the coffee-shop/lunch bar is a play area for kids with tables set up around it so that Mom can keep an eye on Junior while grabbing a quick breakfast or lunch or cup of java. The menu includes wraps, panini sandwiches and salads, with PB&Js, sliced apples with caramel and plenty of healthy choices for kids, "plus all the usual full-sinful stuff," says Greg.

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