Yesterday I talked with Alex Gurevich about his plans for making pizzas at the former Mojitos/Mel's/Montecito/Piscos/Dudley's space at 1120 East Sixth Avenue, right smack in the middle of Sixth Avenue's restaurant row. It sounded like good news. Despite some bad moves over the years, I think Gurevich is a good chef who runs interesting restaurants with talented crews. And the Sixth Avenue spot isn't the only new project he has going, it turns out.
A couple years back, after getting crushed during the opening of his Limon, his novo Andino restaurant 1618 East 17th Avenue, Gurevich decided that, rather than spend his Friday and Saturday nights turning away the overflow or making his customers wait upwards of an hour just to get a table, he would pick up the space next door to Limon and expand his cool little modern Peruvian joint from around fifty seats to something more like a hundred.
Unfortunately, this plan kinda backfired. While it seemed like a no-brainer on paper (more seats + waiting customers = more $$$), this expansion ran up against some psychological troubles that no one was able to foresee. Namely, the expansion turned Limon from an intimate neighborhood lounge into a big, somewhat more impersonal space that buzzed when full but just flat died when there were open tables on the floor.
Gurevich struggled with this weird catch-22 for a while. He would have good nights when everything seemed to be working out fine, then follow them up with nights where a half-full house (which would have been a completely full house before the expansion) felt like failure. At the same time, he was dealing with what he refers to as the "Arvada Grill fiasco" -- the family restaurant, bar and grill that he opened in Arvada with the idea of feeding a booming neighborhood, but which ended up serving a castrated menu of nachos and bar food to scant customers before he finally put it out of its misery after a year) - that was, in his words, "a fucking disaster." He took a big, personal financial hit on that one, and learned that he just wasn't the kind of guy who wanted to try and run big restaurants.
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That's a lesson he's now applying to Limon, which he recently took down to its original size.
And the empty space next door? He and local jazz guy Page Fraley decided to turn it into Jazzmatazz (yeah, I'm not crazy for the name either), a fine dining supper club with live jazz Friday and Saturday and a menu cooked out of the Limon galley.
The board will be uncomplicated, according to Gurevich -- kobe burgers, warm prosciutto salads, salumi -- and he's s portioned off the Limon kitchen so the dual-production on the weekends won't become too complicated, even though Jazzmatazz seats around sixty and Limon now can handle up to fifty.
This weekend's the grand opening of Jazzmatazz, the first time Gurevich will get a real taste of the schizophrenia in the Limon kitchen. I've never been much of a jazz guy myself. But I'm four-square in favor of another spot for dinner on 17th Avenue--especially one coming from Gurevich.