Cafe Marmotte was opened by Mark Reggiannini and Mairen Reagan nearly two years ago at 290 South Downing Street, but the French cafe has been under new ownership since early spring. Maria Katsaros and her brother, Stratis, are now in charge of the eatery, which won our Best French Restaurant award this year.
Maria Katsaros explains that this is her first restaurant as an owner, but she's been in the industry since she was a teenager, and had worked at Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill for the past twelve years. That connection is what helped her and her brother take over the space, since the owner of Charlie Brown's, George Andrianakos, is also the landlord of the building that houses Cafe Marmotte.
According to Andrianakos, the previous owner had fallen behind on rent, so he stepped in and terminated Reggiannini's lease. From there, he presented Katsaros the opportunity to become the new owner.
Maria and her brother had been wanting to open a restaurant of their own, and so Andrianakos offered the Marmotte space to them — and also offered his own experiences in the restaurant business to help guide them through the opening months. "I do know about food; I've been in the restaurant business for forty years," says Andrianakos, who came to Denver from Greece in 1967. "I want to give these young people a chance to succeed."
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Maria says that her focus will be in gaining the trust of the neighborhood as a new business owner in the community. "We're very passionate about making sure the food is right, that it looks great, and that customers are treated right," she adds, noting that disappointing a customer even once can drive them away forever.
Not much has changed with the interior or the menu, now executed by chef Manuel Diaz, who honed his skills in high-end restaurants in Cancún before coming to Denver. Brunch (à la carte, not buffet), originally served only on Sundays, will now be served on Saturdays, too. And for the month of August, a $40 prix fixe special will allow guests to try a variety of menu options at a reduced price. "This doesn't have to be a special-occasion restaurant," Maria notes. "We want it to be an everyday place."
The new owners have replaced some windows and added awnings, along with a few patio tables and decorative potted trees. Acknowledging the difficulty of the corner spot with no parking of its own, Maria says they'll also offer free valet parking as soon as the permit is approved by the city.
Cafe Marmotte originally opened as a spinoff of La Marmotte, a longstanding French restaurant in Telluride that Reggiannini and Reagan purchased in 2003. Under its new ownership, Denver's Cafe Marmotte is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday brunch served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.