With fall's cooler weather, menus are changing around town. But there are other changes at local restaurants, too, including chefs moving on. Here's a look at recent chef switches at a trio of restaurants I've reviewed -- including Gozo, one of the most promising new spots this year. See also: Review of Gozo, a Real Hot Spot -- in More Ways Than One
Gozo got off to a strong start when it opened last March, with an impressive selection of small plates and wood-fired pizzas topped with the likes of crispy potatoes and rosemary. But Nicholas Petrilli, who designed the menu and was executive chef when I reviewed the restaurant, won't be around to celebrate Gozo's one-year anniversary.
Late this summer, Petrilli returned to Florida to be closer to family, leaving the kitchen in the hands of former sous-chef Chris Falcone, formerly of The Fort. "I asked [Nick] to come to Colorado to open Gozo," says partner Frank Jolley II, but given delays in getting the restaurant off the ground, "his six months turned into a year."
"The intention was to be a neighborhood spot, not as chef-driven," Jolley says, adding that he expects minimal, seasonal changes -- not a complete overhaul -- under Falcone.
Founding chef Joe Troupe, who was in the kitchen at Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House when I reviewed the LoDo restaurant, left this summer to open Amass, his French-inspired restaurant in Jefferson Park that took over the former home of Corner House. He's been replaced by Stephen Culler, a onetime sous-chef at Lucky Pie who'd left the pizzeria to learn from other kitchens, including that of The Populist.
When he returned to Lucky Pie, Culler brought with him a new appreciation for charcuterie. "We always made our cheeses [for the antipasti], but not the meats," says general manager Michael Button. "Now we're seeing if we can tackle our meats." To that end, Culler is bringing in whole hogs and breaking them down in-house. And while the charcuterie hasn't yet been rolled out due to the lengthy approval process, other dishes have been, including pan-seared pork belly with beets, apples and arugula. Keep reading for one more kitchen change.
When I visited Chai & Chai this summer, the unassuming little restaurant at the heart of the Anschutz Medical Campus was in flux, as I noted in my review. The owner had founded it as a dual-concept Indian and Arabian eatery, but was poised to make significant changes, including hiring a new chef and offering an exclusively Indian menu at dinner.
"Some of the dishes will be staying, but the balance will tip to vegetarian, and most of the nightly offerings will be off-menu," I wrote at the time. After a summer of experimentation, however, owner Venu Alla now says the current emphasis will be on "lunch, takeout and dinner, in that order. We will not want to be a sit-down destination, instead, more like small bites, big flavors."
In August, he hired yet another Indian chef, Prakash Maroju, who is now offering meat and a set menu at dinner, and is focusing on dishes such as biryani and potato curry from the Southern Indian city of Hyderabad. Thankfully, the dosa will remain.
In addition to these changes at the evening meal, Alla says that Arabian cuisine will no longer be a lunchtime staple. Instead, he will open up the kitchen to visiting chefs -- sometimes Arabian, sometimes Thai and other cuisines -- to complement the Indian takeout options. "This piece of giving a platform to freelancers is still dear to me," he says.
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