Three years in the making, Brad Anderson’s vision for an Italian restaurant will become reality when the doors to Benzina open today, May 26, in what was formerly a muffler shop at 4839 East Colfax Avenue. From the twin bocce ball courts and urban garden to the music played on vinyl echoing through the open kitchen, every aspect of the restaurant has been meticulously designed with the goal of creating a community atmosphere. And when it came to developing the menu, Anderson brought on two industry pros: Brian Lockwood and Daniele Bolognini.
Lockwood’s time in the kitchen started when he was a fourteen-year-old busser in Boulder. He now has decades of experience in renowned restaurants in locations around the world, including California, Hawaii and Europe; most recently, he was executive chef at the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York City, which closed temporarily at the beginning of the pandemic. During that downtime, Lockwood, a Boulder native, decided to move back to Colorado, where he was brought on as a consulting chef for Benzina.“[He] has great leadership qualities,” Anderson says. “He ran a 100-plus-staffed kitchen at Eleven Madison. ... His imagination, the way he thinks, and his execution is something that Denver has never seen before.”
Benzina’s executive chef, Bolognini, was born in northern Italy; he attended the Culinary Arts School of San Pellegrino Terme and began his culinary career in 2001. Ten years later, he moved to Colorado and eventually became executive chef at the now-closed Acorn. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bolognini left Acorn and began selling handmade pasta from his Denver home before joining Anderson’s team. “I was attracted to what I can learn from Brian,” says Bolognini. “He’s been in the kitchen for twenty years, like me, but in different restaurants and places. After twenty years in the kitchen, it is awesome that I can still find something new to learn or something new to see.”
Bolognini and Lockwood worked as a team to develop and produce the Benzina menu, which includes their renditions of Italian classics. Trout is smoked in a Mibrasa charcoal oven for the tortellini, one of three pasta dishes, and the dough for the seven Neapolitan pizzas is made with their own flour mix; locally sourced produce and vegetables from the restaurant’s outdoor urban garden are used wherever possible.
“We have such amazing individuals,” says general manager Justin Dano. “It’s not just the fact that they have so much experience, but they are a fit personality-wise — and that’s everything.”
Benzina is located at 4839 East Colfax Avenue and open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. For menus and more information, visit benzinadenver.com.
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