As the Denver sausage business goes, this is some of the most exciting news for fans of locally made salumi and other cured meats: Mark DeNittis is putting the apron back on and teaming up with Americatus chef/owner Iain Chisholm to start a new company called Americatus Artisan Provisions. Chisholm will close his five-year-old RiNo restaurant after dinner and late-night service tomorrow (Saturday, June 24) to give 100 percent of his attention to the new endeavor.
"It's been five years at the restaurant — so bittersweet is the best way to put it," Chisholm says of the closing. He notes that business has been good, but that for better or worse, he was still having to put in at least seventy hours a week to make it work.
"It's a weighing of potential outcome," he says of the decision to go full-bore with the sausage company, whose third partner is Damon Stano, whose family owns longtime north Denver company Western Meat, founded by Tony Stano in 1976.
Chisholm and Stano have been working together for the past three years on various products, and Chisholm and DeNittis have known each other since before the latter opened Il Mondo Vecchio, the short-lived but seminal salumi company that opened many chefs' eyes to the world of traditionally cured European meats.
"He was my first chef/instructor when I was in cooking school, and I was working for Jenna [Johansen] even before she and Mark got married," Chisholm recalls.
"He did our wedding food when we got married," DeNittis says of his former student.
Americatus Artisan Provisions will launch in July with several cooked products, including mortadella, prosciutto cotto and several varieties of sausage. After that, the team will delve into dry-cured products made in a way similar to DeNittis's original formulations from his Il Mondo Vecchio days. Chisholm explains that the method for both the cooked and dry-cured meats involves "the lowest amount of salt allowed" and no added lactic acid or other preservatives. "The finish is a clean meat taste," he notes, without "that tinny, metallic taste."
Between the three partners, they've developed a wide network of chefs and professional colleagues across the country, many of whom have already committed to carrying Americatus products. DeNittis says they'll have placements in four states right off the bat, not including accounts in Colorado.
DeNittis is currently a corporate chef and product specialist (in meats, of course) at Sysco, a job he's keeping. "I plan on staying with Sysco as long as they'll have me," he says. He also says that getting back into the wholesale salumi business is much less daunting than his first go-around because production will take place at Western Meat, a company that's already fully licensed and USDA-inspected. So the hassles he encountered that eventually led him to close Il Mondo Vecchio in 2012 (just as Chisholm was opening his restaurant) won't be problematic this time around. Since 2012, DeNittis has consulted on a number of other salumi and charcuterie projects around Denver, but this is his first foray back into formulating and producing a new brand.
And that's meaty news for sausage lovers here in town.