Cafe Society

Eric Cimino, chef of Luca: "The fancy-burger trend should call it quits"

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In 2012, after two years in Napa, Cimino and his girlfriend -- now wife -- moved to Colorado. "We had visited Denver and fell in love with it, and we saw that it was a city that was gaining a lot of momentum and had a ton of culinary potential," says Cimino, who was hired as a pantry cook at Luca just four days after he arrived in the Mile High City. "I had a job before I had a place to live," he jokes.

Chef-restaurateur Frank Bonanno, who owns Luca (and nine other metro-Denver restaurants, with another on the way) soon moved him up to the pasta station, and last year, when Hunter Pritchett exited Luca's kitchen to relocate to Los Angeles, Bonanno pinpointed Cimino to take the reins. "I love Frank's energy, spontaneity and wild ideas, and I get to work closely with all the other inspirational chefs in his restaurants. I feel very privileged to be part of a bigger team than just Luca," concludes Cimino, who in the following interview admits that he detests peanut butter, recounts the night he got too close to the meat slicer, and details his confrontation with a turkey.

Lori Midson: What's your earliest food memory? Eric Cimino: I was four years old and living in Helena, Montana. My family and I were at a friend's farm for Thanksgiving, and I remember playing outside and being confronted -- and chased around -- by a very angry turkey. That turkey was the one they chose to cook up for dinner, and that experience was my first direct connection to food.

Ten words to describe you: Calm, serious, patient, passionate, teacher, counselor, dad, pensive, meticulous and busy.

Five words to describe your food: Deliberate, flavorful, creative, fun and thought-provoking.

What are your ingredient obsessions? I love eggs because they're so versatile, and I enjoy the flavors of fermented and preserved foods. I'm especially obsessed with white anchovies because they're salty, pickled and delicious. I'm also a big fan of offal (tongue, sweetbreads, liver, etc.); they're ingredients that have such a depth of flavor and interesting textures.

One ingredient you won't touch: I absolutely hate peanut butter with a passion, and I've had a dislike of it for as long as I can remember. I can't stand the smell, flavor or texture.

Food trend you'd like to see emerge in 2014: I'd love to see a surge of quality late-night food options -- not just greasy fried food.

Food trend you'd like to see disappear in 2014: The fancy-burger trend should call it quits.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson