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Bite Me

Herz Tries Harder

Here's what we do know: The "thing" isn't a chain, but is a "food and beverage operator" -- which is just fancy office talk for a restaurant. The "operators" are local, not national or some bunch of tourists. And, she added, not more than four to six weeks will elapse from the August 20 close of Josephina's to the opening of whatever takes its place.

Which leaves only one loose end, and that's Eric Laslow -- the chef brought in to take over the kitchen at Josephina's after the departure of Randy Rutherford. For more on that, see the July 14 Bite Me.

Leftovers: Josephina's isn't the only Italian joint to pull a disappearing act. Vita Bella, a spot in Superior where you could get authentic strip-mall Italian food done the way it's supposed to be, shut down last month and has already been replaced by a sports bar. And the odds of getting a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs there are long indeed.

But here's good news: Via, a traditional Italian restaurant and bar brought to us by owners Anthony and Venanzio Momo and chef Andrea Frizzi (all veterans of Cherry Creek's Cucina Colore), should open mid-month in the Icehouse at 1801 Wynkoop Street. Most recently, this spot was occupied by Brasserie Rouge, which died an inglorious death last November. Before that, the address had swallowed up Anita's Crab Shack and its initial occupant, Cucina Cucina.

Now it's returning to its Italian origins, and if I had to lay money on someone making a go of this spot, the crew from Cucina Colore would be high on my list of bettin' ponies. For starters, Via will be a casual, moderately priced destination -- always a good way to go. The menu will feature Italian tapas called assaggini (a guaranteed money-maker), simple pastas (excellent for the bottom line) and a board of authentic, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas that should (if nothing else) make the neighborhood smell a lot better than it does today. And finally, the new place will be open smart hours: starting at 3 p.m. daily, with a very Italian, three-hour-long happy hour and a late-night menu served until 11 p.m. on weekends.

On August 15, the former home of Lucca Lucca, at 1601 Pearl Street in Boulder, will officially become Aji -- a straight Latin American restaurant (no fusion, no cross-cultural weirdness) named after a fiery little bastard of a chile traditionally found along the west coast of South America. Aji is being brought to life by partners Sara and Lenny Martinelli(of the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, the Huckleberry and Naropa Cafe), Sue DiPaolo (also of the Dushanbe Teahouse) and Gerald Manning(of Q's). Last week, when I caught DiPaolo on the phone at the new digs, I asked what she was doing there ten days out from Aji's opening.

"Working my ass off," she said, laughing.

Although Aji didn't yet have a menu, DiPaolo said it would be based on the cuisines of Central and South America, augmented by a ceviche bar, a South American wine list and a full liquor license. "Lenny, my partner, always had a dream of opening a Latin American restaurant," she explained. "And also, there's no other place like this in town."

The partners do have a chef: Nick Roberts, formerly of Bloom. And no matter that he's never cooked a Central/South American menu before. "This is new for all of us," DiPaolo said. "But we'll get there."

Quickly, I hope.

Down south, there are changes at the Manor House,with exec chef Justin Wills -- who'd been standing the post since the hasty exit of Michael Degenhartlast year -- bailing out just last week for a gig up in Oregon. Wills has been replaced by his former sous, John Sebring. "He came from Oregon," Manor House manager Diane McCarty said of Wills, "and he'd been looking for a job back up there for some time."

The transition has been smooth. "Since Justin's sous chef is now in the higher position, the kitchen is continuing on as always," McCarty added, promising the same service, the same hospitality, and no more than the usual number of menu shakeups that occur when a galley and a crew change hands.

Finally, in the July 28 Bite Me, I said that patissière and gelato-pusher John Hinman-- who's opened the Gelato Spot at 1439 South Pearl Street -- had done time in the kitchen at Mel's. Come to find out, he never worked there (but he did work at Vesta Dipping Grill for several years, at Roy's, and most recently at Jaxand Lola). But that didn't stop Hinman from heading over to Cherry Creek to demand some back pay from Tyler Wiard at Mel's. "I was in there for dinner," Hinman told me, "and I told Tyler that I didn't remember working there, but that it looked like he owed me a check."

And I owe Hinman an apology.

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