Restaurateurs Juan Padró and Katie O’Shea Padró and chef-partner Max MacKissock are putting their new Italian eatery, Bar Dough, through its paces this week with a couple of friends-and-family lunch and dinner services before they swing the doors open to the public on Monday, October 26. The restaurant, located next to the Padrós' Highland Tap & Burger on West 32nd Avenue, features a wood-burning pizza oven as its focal point, but also covers a range of other Italian dishes, both familiar and novel.
"The menu is not regionally specific to any one part of Italy," MacKissock explains. "But we're applying fine-dining technique to everything we do."
"For both of us, this is nostalgia food," Juan Padró adds. He and MacKissock both grew up on the East Coast and remember Italian joints from their home towns, so standards like meatballs, garlic bread and Bolognese make appearances. But there will also be mesquite-grilled skewers known as spiedini and fettunta — or "oiled bread" — topped with chicken liver or braised treviso and apples.
The chef has assembled a kitchen full of talent, including right-hand man Blake Edmunds — "He's my 'One-A', if I'm 'One,'" says MacKissock — as well as Toby Prout from Leña, Kona Bobek from Old Major, Chris Douglas (who most recently helped reopen Mezcal), "pasta nerd" Matthew Murphy from Rioja, and Josh Prater from Euclid Hall. "My philosophy is team-driven," MacKissock explains. "I don't come up with every single dish or come up with every single idea. The talent here is as good as anywhere in town — or in the region for that matter."
Padró says his goal was to bring in the right people and introduce them to his system and then set them up for future success. In addition to Bar Dough, he's also working on a second Tap & Burger in Sloan's Lake — and then wants to grow beyond three restaurants. "We're going to look at who's ready," he says, adding that opening more restaurants will only happen when he has the right people, the right idea and the right location, rather than trying to shoehorn in another Bar Dough or another Tap & Burger into the wrong place.
His theory extends to the front of the house, too, where he's brought in veteran Stephen Gallic (MacKissock worked with him at the Squeaky Bean) as general manager. "I look at this as a program and a business," Padró notes. "I'm not a restaurant guy by training, so I need guys here who are smarter than me."
Bar Dough's long, narrow space emphasizes the marble-topped bar that extends for the entire length of the dining room, and will serve fifty Italian wines, classic cocktails, Colorado spirits and a selection of international beers chosen to accent Italian cooking. The house beer is a helles lager from Tivoli Brewing Co., and there will also be an assortment of farmhouse ales, sour beers and crisp lagers. The bar will feature four wines on tap, too, including a Prosecco that will be used as the base for spritzes made with Italian bitters and house-made syrups.
MacKissock notes that his new menu is a return to his cooking roots. "This is what I'm most comfortable with," he says. "I spent the first ten years [of my career] in Italian kitchens in New York and Italy."
With this menu and set-up, guests can come in and sit at the bar for a beer and a $10 pizza margherita or can bring the family for a traditional five-course Italian dinner, Padro notes. And starting Monday, they'll be able to do that for lunch and dinner seven nights a week.
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