Frank Bonanno, who was named a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur in this year's James Beard Foundation Awards, didn't make the cut when the finalists were announced Monday.
But he's already won a string of honors, including Best New Restaurant in Best of Denver 2009 for Bones, the noodle house that opened at the very end of 2008 at 701 Grant Street. And Bones is still going storng.
"It's going really well," says Bonanno. "I would say that the average restaurant was down between 11 and 14 percent last year. But Bones, we're up from January until March 16." So is Osteria Marco, his restaurant in Larimer Square, although both Luca D'Italia and Mizuna, his restaurants that flank Bones, are "down a little," he admits.
Not so down, though, that he's not thinking about opening another place. "It seems to be about every two years or so, so yeah, we're looking," Bonanno says. "We're looking for something we can buy, the right opportunity. We've made offers on some, but could never agree on pricing. It's not a great economy. I think commercial real estate hasn't begun to feel the woes they're going to feel. Real estate has not bottomed out. And lending is part of it. It's really, really hard to get money."
With Bones, Bonanno was able to use his own cash - but then, he wasn't buying the building (much as he'd like to have been able to buy it). And this time around, he definitely wants to own some real estate. What he opens will depend on where that real estate is. "We have several concepts we're kicking around," he says. "We looked at a space today, where we'd go with more of a tavern-type of thing, but still be kid-friendly. Another building was perfect, we were going to do artisanal sausages and salume. We wanted to put a butcher shop in it, with a restaurant next to it. But I don't think we're going to get it."
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But that's okay. "We're not in a hurry," he continues. "Things are good. We're just saving money, we're saving every penny we can. That's the key."
And at Bones, the money keeps pouring in. "It's had days when it's done 240 people -- out of 27 seats," Bonanno marvels.