Less than two weeks into its run at the Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek North, Quality Italian has parted ways with executive chef Franz Hueber.
Before moving to Colorado, Hueber cooked in several storied New York kitchens, beginning with a stint at the prolific Sullivan Street Bakery and continuing through gigs at Brooklyn’s Char No. 4, iconic Park Slope pizzeria Franny’s and neighborhood gem Il Buco Alimentari. When we sat down with him last week to chat for a chef interview, he told us he’d moved to Colorado because he and his wife wanted a change of pace: “We wanted a break, honestly. We were working nonstop around the clock, and wanted to stop to start a family and buy a house, which was not realistic in New York City. [My wife] is from Denver, her family is here, and we always talked about wanting to move back. The first time I visited, I thought: This place is amazing.”
When the couple first landed in Colorado, they went way west for mountain-town living, and Hueber spent some time managing the cellar at his wife’s uncle’s Western Slope distillery, Peak Spirits, before the pair craved a return to city life. When they relocated to the Front Range, Hueber took a job at Salt, the Boulder farm-to-table restaurant whose philosophy is in keeping with a number of the restaurants in which he’d previously worked. He was executive chef there when he was approached by a Quality Italian head hunter, a serendipitous opportunity given that Hueber and his wife had just purchased a home in Denver.
Hueber told us he was taken by Quality Italian’s whimsical approach to old-school Italian; he’d been overseeing the execution of a number of dishes made famous in New York, like the chicken parm pizza, a big disk of fried chicken topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce. The restaurant has "taken both dishes and molded them into something you recognize on both ends, and it makes you smile, and it’s really good,” he said. “Everyone knows chicken parm, everyone knows pizza, but here’s a new way to do it.”
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Hueber’s departure will not bring culinary changes: Chef-partners Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, who are the masterminds behind the Quality Italian concept and food in both New York City and Denver, have been in town overseeing the run-up to Quality Italian’s opening, and they will stay on in the Mile High for a while; the menu will remain constant. No word yet on where Hueber is headed, but here’s the official word from the folks at Quality Italian that we received March 13:
“We have parted ways with Franz Hueber and wish him the best. Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, our partners and the chefs who originated the Quality Italian concept and developed the menus, will remain at the helm, overseeing the culinary program of the restaurant.”