Restaurateur Ryan Fletter launched the full-service version of Chow Morso Osteria a year ago after running the concept for two years as a counter-service eatery inside Avanti Food & Beverage. There were big changes involved in the move, including building out a larger menu of classic Italian pastas and entrees, stocking a wine cellar and learning the wants and needs of a new customer base coming from the LoDo neighborhood Chow Morso moved into.
But a year in, Fletter, who also owns Barolo Grill in Cherry Creek North, says the first twelve months have gone according to plan. "I'm really surprised and delighted that people have been so wide open and accepting," he notes. "We really haven't had to change much from the original mission."
But there's one big change that will help streamline operations at Chow Morso and Barolo Grill: Fletter recently named John Willis executive chef of the younger restaurant. For most of the past year, Barolo Grill executive chef Darrel Truett has been overseeing both kitchens, but he and Fletter felt that things were on steady enough ground to delegate responsibility. So they turned to a former employee in Willis to take the helm at Chow Morso.
"I worked at Barolo Grill for five years, and I've been on three of the annual Italy trips, which were a huge part of my development," Willis explains. (Fletter takes his crew to Italy every summer to explore food and wine.)
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The chef was away from the company for two years running his own catering business, but when the time came to fill the executive-chef position, Fletter turned to Willis because of his previous experience. "The parameters here at Chow Morso are less restricting [than Barolo Grill]," Willis adds, "but in both cases it's Italian cuisine done right — with the best possible ingredients."
Fletter says his original goal with Chow Morso was to provide a broader range of experiences than what guests experience at Barolo Grill, which he points out is open for only five hours a day, five days a week. The younger sibling does lunch, too, and offers a few Italian street-food specialties to complement the housemade pasta. But in both cases, the emphasis is on hyper-seasonality and fresh, local ingredients. Willis says guests will be able to experience more of that now that Chow Morso has a dedicated exec; he plans to bring in the best of local farms, and even the nearby Union Station Farmers' market, for specials and seasonal offerings.
The team is still working on menu additions and changes, so Fletter isn't planning an anniversary bash, but he says once WIllis is settled in, he hopes to do something fun in October to help introduce the chef to the restaurant's customers.
Chow Morso Osteria is located at 1500 Wynkoop Street and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday (and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Call 720-639-4089 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.