Walk the Larimer Street block between 26th and 27th streets and you’ll almost certainly run into Andrea Frizzi, owner of Italian restaurant Il Posto and Vero, the pizzeria that holds down a space inside the Denver Central Market. Frizzi has become a sort of unofficial mayor of RiNo, kissing cheeks of neighbors and waving to passersby as he puffs on a cigar on his restaurant's patio. And while he’s very much rooted in the neighborhood — “I love it; it’s like an Italian market,” he says — he’s beginning an expansion of his pizzeria that will take him first to Boulder and then beyond the metro area.
“Denver has been so good to me. I’m trying to put my foot quietly in Boulder and see if I can be part of the scene,” he says.
Late last year, Frizzi took over Pizzeria Da Lupo, a strip-mall joint at 2525 Arapahoe Avenue that came online in Boulder during the pizza boom of 2010. Owner Ken Wolf had planned to have Southern chef Matt Lackey take over there, but when Lackey passed away in a climbing accident, Wolf tapped Frizzi to come in as an owner and convert Da Lupo into Vero.
Frizzi has spent the past several months training the staff to execute Vero’s Milanese pizzas, baked in the same type of oven the chef uses at the Denver original. He’s made some concessions to Da Lupo regulars, keeping the chicken wings — “It’s a college town; a lot of people come here for that,” he acknowledges — and some of the salads. But he’s also added his own sensibility to the place, nixing a longstanding slice deal and adding in burrata, bombolini and panna cotta, all shipped up from the Il Posto kitchen in Denver.
Now he’s finally ready to complete the transformation: Da Lupo will close its doors on Sunday, March 4, for a refresh that will bring it in line with its Denver sibling.
Frizzi’s team plans to do a fairly comprehensive overhaul of the space. Da Lupo had the vibe of a dark, well-worn parlor, with old pictures and posters plastering brick walls. “We’re going to re-tile everything white and use the green of the oven as an accent,” Frizzi says. He also plans to add a community table and a draft wine system. He’ll keep the cement tile floor, but he’ll repaint the ceiling to cover up the dark rafters. “It will be way more bright than it is right now.” What he won’t add, he says, is a hood, which means that this outpost of Vero will not be able to do pastas.
When the doors reopen, Vero’s pizza menu will match that of the RiNo shop, and its wine program will get an upgrade, along with its glassware.
Frizzi acknowledges unabashedly that he hopes this first freestanding Vero is the start of an empire. He’ll have an outlet at Denver International Airport when the Denver Central Market unveils its streamlined version there in June, and he says he’s looking at spaces in other cities, as well. His drive, he says, comes from the desire to giving his employees a better life: “Being successful by yourself is boring. When you can make other people successful with you, it’s an amazing feeling — it gives you so much. I always think about how can we give [our employees] a better life, how can we provide them something they can only get from a big company. The only way you can do that is to expand the company.”
If all goes to plan, Boulder’s outpost of Vero will open on March 14 or 15.
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