The writing was on the wall long before Il Vicino, a New Mexico-based pizza joint, posted the verbiage above, alerting the Washington Park neighborhood that it had shuttered. The pizzeria, which still occupies a location in Littleton, relocated from its original address on Broadway, now Pizzeria Locale, to Old South Gaylord in 2012, but despite the prominent address, a new build-out and a smashing patio, it never rose -- and nor did its pizza -- to the point where it resonated with the neighborhood, and on Wednesday of last week, Il Vicino went dark.
Jean-Philippe Failyau, owner of Park Burger and Park and Co., noticed the dearth of bodies, too, when he and his kids would drop by for pizza. "I'd go there once a week or so with my kids after swim class at DU, and it was never very busy, and I always thought, 'Hey, if this spot ever becomes a available, we've got to jump on it,'" says Failyau...who did just that once he got the intel that Il Vicino was extinguishing its wood-fired ovens.
But while Failyau, who already owns two Park Burgers (a third outpost is slated to open in May in the Hilltop/Crestmoor neighborhood, and a fourth location is scheduled for an August debut in RiNo), has had great success with his burger concept, the restaurant he's opening -- Homegrown Tap & Dough -- will focus on "being a family-friendly place with wood-fired, thin-crusted classic and modern pizzas, pastas, antipasto, salads, a couple of main dishes -- think brick chicken -- and a great beer program," says Failyau, who hopes to close on the deal in early May and open by the end of May.
The liquor license only allows for the consumption of wine and beer, and Failyau plans to make the most of the beer leeway by pouring twenty brews on tap, most, if not all of them, local, he says. And the former quick-casual service model will be replaced by table service, while a fifteen-seat, u-shaped bar will take the place of what's currently the counter, its backdrop, a large open kitchen with a wood-fired oven that will remain.
"The place is in great shape and already has really good features, not to mention the best patio on the block, so while we're going to make some changes to the space, like getting rid of the counter and building a bar in its place, there's not a whole lot of cosmetic work that we have to do," notes Failyau. Nonetheless, he admits that he has several ideas "to give it some personality" that he'd eventually like to implement.
"We're planning to add four or five TVs for people who want to watch sporting events; we're adding some banquettes and hand-crafted tables created from recycled wood; we're looking at putting in two ski chairlifts that will double as seating; and we're considering adding a bocce court and fire pit on the patio, plus a trellis to give it a bit more charm," reveals Failyau. He tells me, too, that he's going to have a neighborly "buy-a-friend-a-drink" chalkboard, a cool concept that allows patrons to write their name, the name of a friend and the drink that you'd like to buy that friend, all on a big chalkboard, the idea being that when you walk into Homegrown Tap and Dough -- and see your name on the board -- your drink has already been paid for.
"This is just a beautiful restaurant -- a trophy property -- in an awesome neighborhood, and we want to have some fun with it and engage the people who live around here," says Failyau. "We want to add to the vibrancy of South Gaylord Street, and we want people to go to Park Burger in Platt Park one night and this the next night, knowing that they're going to get the same high level of food and service at both places," he adds.
Speaking of food and service, Failyau is looking for an exec chef to command the kitchen at Homegrown Tap and Dough, as well as a culinary director for Park & Co., Park Burger and Homegrown Tap and Dough. If you want to apply for either position, shoot your resume to email@example.com, with a subject line indicating which job you're applying for.
"We're going to move fast once we've closed, and we're looking for some great people to be a part of this," says Failyau, who, if all goes according to plan, will open three restaurants in four months, an ambitious schedule that will definitely require a lot of bodies.
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Once Homegrown Tap and Dough opens, hours will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.