Cafe Society

Justin Cucci opening Vital Root on Tennyson Street

No processed sugars; no wheat flour; no fake meat; and no colon blow. Instead, says Justin Cucci, owner of Root Down, Root Down at DIA and Linger, expect "super-vegetarian-centric-slow-fast-food" at Vital Root, a new restaurant that he's opening on Tennyson Street early next year with business partner -- and yoga instructor -- Desiree Springer, who operates Vital Yoga, also on Tennyson.

See also: Photos: A delicious preview of Linger's new spring menu

"We've known each other for years -- Desiree used to be my yoga teacher -- and while the yoga was great, trying to find a place to eat afterward that was healthy and made us feel good, was almost impossible," admits Cucci. "We kept asking ourselves why there wasn't anywhere that served great vegetarian food that refuels your body, and when we couldn't find a place, we decided to open one ourselves," he adds.

The 2,000-square-foot, L-shaped space, which used to house Mountain Man Nut and Fruit Company, won't open until January, but Cucci already has a concrete vision for the food, which will include juice cleansing programs, a juice bar and kitchari, an Indian dish that's traditionally a union of grains, vegetables and spices, the combination of which aids in digestion and cleanses systemic toxins. The plan, says Cucci, is to have a build-your-own kitchari station stocked with various greens, grains and spices. "Think of it as Chipotle on vegetarian steroids," he quips. "It's power food that makes you feel amazing."

In addition to the juicing programs and kitchari station, the cafe will offer some raw foods, sandwiches mounted on sprouted bread and salads, as well as a steel-structured, three-story cubed growhouse, the ingredients of which will be utilized in the cafe's all-vegetarian (and some vegan) dishes. "We're definitely going to grow a lot of our own food onsite, including lots of lettuces, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, kale and probably some chiles," reveals Cucci, adding that he'd also like to offer a 99-cent meal. "You can blow your colon eating a Big Mac, or you can come to Vital Root and have a hearty, healthy, filling and cheap lunch or dinner -- think lentils, a great sauce and a salad -- that makes you feel amazing, all for just 99 cents," he adds. Drink included.

Along with breakfast, lunch and dinner, a 500-square-foot patio overlooking the street is part of the plan, too, as is a small syllabus dedicated to beers and wine -- but no spirits. Cucci, who's preparing to gut the space down to its bones, says to expect a quirky environment. "It's a funky space for sure, and we're going for a modern tree house vibe with lots of light and greenery. It's going to be super-awesome," he promises.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson