When Delores Tronco came back to Denver to open The Greenwich, she brought a lot of her New York City experience with her, including a chef, a general manager and memorabilia from her shuttered NYC restaurant, The Banty Rooster. In a way, Tronco says, the Greenwich is her love letter to New York.
Here's how to read RiNo's newest spot:
Delores Tronco isn't new to Denver. She grew up in Greeley and opened Work & Class in 2014 with Dana Rodriguez and Tony Maciag. Two years later, she sold her part of the restaurant and moved to New York City in early 2017 to pursue more experiences in hospitality. Tronco worked as the general manager of sustainable seafood eatery Seamore's; waited tables at a seasonal, global-inspired restaurant called the Eddy; and finally worked for David Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns as his assistant.
"This experience wasn't anything I had access to in my earlier career, and I am glad I had the opportunity to go and learn and experience those different things," says Tronco, who also studied to be a sommelier at the International Wine School while living in NYC. "It's informed how I approach the Greenwich and being an entrepreneur now."
It was Barber who helped Tronco open the Banty Rooster in New York's Greenwich Village in December 2019. The cuisine was Southwestern with an emphasis on New Mexican food and green chiles, something that isn't often seen on the East Coast. The restaurant was packed almost from the start, Tronco says. But after just three months in business, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Tronco was forced to shut down indoor dining. She pushed to keep afloat, but after a dispute with the landlord, she realized it was time to shutter the restaurant permanently and return to Colorado.
"I am not done with New York yet, but I am thankful and happy to be back in Denver," she says. "I have learned this year that it can be both: I can miss NYC and be happy to be here."
Justin Freeman spent the last few years working under chef Justin Smillie at NYC's Upland, a restaurant near and dear to Tronco's heart. During the pandemic, Tronco became closer to Freeman and his family. "We slowed down, and I would go to the beach or the Rockaways with them," reminisces Tronco. "They were some of the only people I saw during that time of isolation, and we got to know each other better and discussed our philosophies on restaurants."
When the time came to move to Denver, Freeman was all in, relocating with his wife, infant son and pets. He's brought his years of cooking expertise to the Greenwich, creating heaping plates of perfectly roasted chicken with lemon and tomato jam, roasted seasonal vegetables and a lineup of unique pizzas topped with local meats.
"Justin worked hard to create a menu that you could eat with your family and friends," says Tronco. "He is even working on ways to make the restaurant smell like fresh bread — which we bake in the morning each day, but by the evening the smell is gone."
The 130-seat space has much more room than Tronco's NYC joint, but there are enough city twists that you feel like you could be dining in the West Village. Intricate, brownstone-themed wallpaper covers some walls on the way to the bathrooms and kitchen, while others sport white subway tiles. The art shows images of NYC, and a bookcase is full of tomes by famous East Coast authors and thinkers.
"I want guests to see the Greenwich first as welcoming and embracing the beauty of NYC, especially Greenwich Village, and then I want them to get a sense of eclecticism," says Tronco. "I went to great lengths with the decor to tell a story, to tell of the Village in a time when a lot of things were culturally changing."
The forty-seat outdoor patio has a partial garage door that opens up to people who want cocktails to go. There are plush banquettes near the front of the restaurant, as well as bar seating and a mezzanine with windows that look down into the kitchen below.
"In New York, you realize quickly that having friends over to your tiny apartment isn't practical, so restaurants become like your living room and a place to gather with friends," says Tronco. "That's why it was important to me that we have art on the walls, soft seating, chairs, a couch and little nooks that people can feel cozy in."
The Food and Drink
Where Tronco's NYC restaurant spoke to the foods of the Southwest, the menu at the Greenwich is more eclectic and New American, focusing on seasonal ingredients. As a result, part of the menu will change often, but so far, the proteins have remained consistent with the whole fish (a snapper large enough to feed two) and the pork cutlet, both of which can be paired with sides like thrice-cooked potatoes and charred fennel.
Freeman also brought his pizza game to Denver, with all pies coming on sourdough crust. The mortadella is a must-try, with pistachio pesto, burrata and fennel pollen, as is the white pie with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, provolone and housemade hot sauce.
Thanks to Tronco's education, the wine program sings, with unusual bottles to intrigue most connoisseurs. And if you don't know what to pair with that anchovy garlic steak and chicory salad, the owner is on hand to make suggestions.
But don't quiet the urge to get a cocktail: The list name-checks NYC. For some, the flavor may indeed bring to mind Autumn In New York (made with bourbon, ginger, apple and spices). The smoky Alphabet City smells a lot better than that Manhattan neighborhood, but with mezcal, apricot, lemon and chiles as ingredients, the quality of the drink is on par with what you might find at a bar on Avenue A. Get one with dinner or order a drink on special during the daily happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m.
During the pre-opening of the very first day of the Banty in NYC, Tronco met her art muse, Ricky Powell, a street photographer known for his raw shots of hip-hop culture, artists and pop icons of the 1980s and ’90s. While Tronco was talking to her staff, Powell peered in and requested to speak to the owner.
"He asked, 'Whose place is this?' and I said, 'It's my place,'" recalls Tronco. "He pointed to the picture on the wall and said, 'Those are my pictures.' I asked if he was Ricky Powell, and he bowed and said, 'At your service.'"
From then on, Powell was a staple at the restaurant, and the photographer became Tronco's personal New York moment. A few months after Tronco left the city, though, Powell passed away. To honor her friend, Tronco commissioned Denver artist Austin Zucchini to do a mural on the wall outside of the restaurant. As a result, guests are greeted by a large painting of Powell, and also see some of his most famous photos of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Cindy Crawford, all done street-art style.
Inside the Greenwich are Powell prints, showing the Beastie Boys, Basquiat and other notable and not-so-notable New Yorkers, all frozen in a time and place that the restaurant captures, while grounded in another one of Tronco's favorite neighborhoods, RiNo.
The Greenwich is located at 3528 Larimer Street and is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit thegreenwichdenver.com; make reservations online or call the restaurant at 720-868-5006.