Rioja celebrated its tenth anniversary in November, and now it's taking some time off for a facelift so that it can enjoy its second decade with a fresh look. Owners Jen Jasinski and Beth Gruitch are closing up their Larimer Square favorite on Friday and will reopen on February 2 after a complete overhaul. The new look will be "current and cosmopolitan," according to Gruitch.
"Let's bring this place back up to sexy," Jasinski agrees.
The new design is by Boss Architects, the same group responsible for the look of Stoic & Genuine, the pair's most recent venture. "We were really happy with our architect and the design at Stoic & Genuine," explains Gruitch. "We were coming off the high of opening there -- we wanted the same feeling walking into Rioja."
The remodel will include a complete gutting of the front of the restaurant; seating will include more options for smaller parties and a new configuration for booths. The ceiling will be enclosed to conceal currently exposed pipes and ducts, and all-new lighting will be warmer and more focused on each table. The bar will stay where it is, but will also be renovated.
Some of the art by painter Jan Young will stay, and nothing from the current interior will be completely scrapped. "Beth and I want to take some stuff home -- a little piece of Rioja," explains Jasinski. A few pieces will be given to employees who have been with the restaurant since the beginning, while Gruitch is having some of the fabrics from chairs and booths made into handbags and wallets.
"We'll open with the same menu we're closing with," notes Gruitch, for those worried that some of their favorite dishes might disappear with the old decor.
Jasinski points out that the dinner menu has always changed frequently, even while signature items remain, ans says the brunch menu will now be getting an overhaul, too. "I'll be practicing those at Bistro Vendome," she says, referring to another one of the duo's Larimer Square restaurants.
While Jasinski is working on brunch, Gruitch has plans for the wine and cocktail program, including new mixed drinks and some turnover of the wine inventory. "I have always wanted to do all Spanish by the glass," she adds, so that will also be new when Rioja reopens.
Rioja will be open for dinner -- but not lunch -- tomorrow and then will close for three weeks. Gruitch and Jasinski are planning a grand reopening party and fundraiser for Colorado Public Radio in early February, which will mirror the original grand opening ten years ago.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.