"I've been involved with food since I was six, and I've always dreamed of having a restaurant in an old building with a wooden roof and exposed brick -- a space to create whatever I want," says Pepe Aparicio, who, along with his brother, Gianfranco, will open Taita, a Peruvian restaurant housed in a 100-year-old structure bedecked with weathered red brick and a timbered ceiling, by the end of the month in Capitol Hill, next door to Tooey's Off Colfax.
The brothers, who hail from Peru, have spent the past seven months fixing up the quarters, a long and narrow space that's hued apricot and mustard, crimson and chocolate, complementing the vivid color scheme with hand-crafted rusticated furnishings. "We spent more than a year looking for a location, and this one provided everything we wanted in a space," says Gianfranco. "My brother," he adds, "cleaned every brick one by one because he didn't want to damage them. It took him two months, but this is our dream, and we wanted to do it right."
And that applies to the menu, as well, which is the creation of Pepe, Taita's chef. "I've worked in Japan, Brazil, Peru and Argentina, and I dream about food, new combinations and new flavors, and my menu is unique in that it's based on Peruvian cuisine, but you'll see lots of other influences," he explains. "I'm mixing tradition and history with modernism and sophistication; I want people to eat food that they can't eat everywhere else," he adds.
Including, both brothers note, Denver's other Peruvian restaurants. "There are no good Peruvian restaurants in Denver," insists Pepe. "The quality just isn't what it should be. What you get in the other Peruvian restaurants here is food that you can inexpensively make at home, but the Peruvian restaurants in Denver will charge you $18 for frozen potatoes."
Gianfranco echoes his brother's sentiments. "People who have never been to Peru go to a Peruvian restaurant here and think what they're getting is real Peruvian food. They're wrong," he declares, pointing out, for example, that tilapia, a fish that Peruvian restaurants in America often use in their ceviche, is nowhere to be seen in Peru. "We don't even know what tilapia is in Peru -- we certainly don't use it."
And Pepe isn't going anywhere near it in Denver, either. Instead, his ceviches -- one of which he calls a "ceviche seafood orgy" -- will utilize halibut, mussels, shrimp and scallops, and you won't find any frozen potatoes anywhere on the compact menu that, he says, will focus on seasonality and, when possible, locality. "I only want to support local businesses; we're not using Shamrock or Sysco for anything, only local farmers, markets and purveyors, and since we're only open for dinner, I have the whole day to shop at the markets," he says.
"Our main mission is to provide our guests with a healthy and fresh menu that draws on our close relationship with local farmers," notes Gianfranco, who adds, too, that nothing on the menu is fried. "When you eat here, you're going to get really high-quality food at a good value." And with the majority of dishes ringing in at less than $13, the brothers seemingly comprehend the idea of affordability.
And the space, which boasts a lovely bar, will also offer reasonably priced Peruvian cocktails, beers and wines, although because of export laws, none of them will be Peruvian.
The brothers are hoping to open the week of July 23. "We have our liquor license and we're ready to go, but we're still waiting on our final inspection from the city," says Gianfranco.
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