After finishing my review of The Berkshire, I called owner Andy Ganick to find out what freaky pig savant was running his kitchen. Turns out the guy with the porky jones is Ganick himself. "I was raised in a Jewish household," he told me, and while his family wasn't kosher, there was never a lot of pork around. Or, anyway, never enough. "I guess it was like the forbidden fruit or something."
He actually wrote the original menu for the Berkshire five or six years ago, while stuck in a New York City traffic jam with a buddy. The idea? A restaurant with the hypothetical name of The Bacon, and a menu that was all pork. Fortunately, he found both an opening chef (Nick Wrona — who left, Ganick thinks, to open some sort of mobile crepe outfit) and a current one (Woodie Thomas, who was Wrona's sous before taking on the big-hat job) who are seriously into pork.
Ganick is a restaurant veteran, having done time in Vail and Philadelphia as a manager. And there came a point when he knew he had to break out on his own. "I just said, I can't work for other people and watch them make these dumb mistakes," he said. He knew he had to go out and do his own thing or just quit the business. "So I took the leap."
And I'm glad he did, because the Berkshire is where he landed.
BTW, the Berkshire is a much better name than the Bacon. And you know what would be a killer name for a punk band?
Honors due: Last week I also put in a call to Mark Dym, owner of Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria (2129 Larimer), to warn him that he might experience a bump in business because Westword was about to publish my rave about his restaurant. Frankly, I'd been surprised that a pizza place could so move me after the thousands of pies from hundreds of shops that I've had since my entrée into the food world. Not that I'm jaded or anything, but I always have this small fear that one of these days I'm going to visit another pizza joint (or burger restaurant or taquería) and simply have nothing to say. "Hey," I'll think, "it's just another goddamn pizza..." But as long as obsessed guys like Dym twist the making of a simple pizza into something like art, I shouldn't have to worry.
Dym was worried for entirely different reasons. He knew me just by my rep (completely unearned) for being a picky little bastard and a destroyer of restaurateur's hopes and dreams — a critic, in other words. Not only that, but the man prides himself on personally greeting every single customer who comes in, taking them on guided tours of his kitchen and showing them his ovens — his pride and joy. And yet he'd somehow managed to miss me. Three times. He said he felt like this was a failing on his part, like he wasn't doing his job. I tried to explain that it's part of the whole anonymous critic shtick to avoid being discovered, and that if he'd managed to find me on the floor and done the tour-guide thing, I wouldn't have been doing my job.
Then we moved on, because Dym had good news to share: The day I called, Marco's had received the coveted VPN certification from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. To earn this, you have to make a pie exactly like they are made in Naples today and have been made in Naples for a zillion years. You have to have a wood-burning oven. You have to use the proper ingredients (00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fior-di-latte or buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, yeast — and nothing else). You have to mix your dough by hand, work it on a marble slab, have an oven operating at 800 degrees or better and a crew individually trained to uphold the high standards of the VPN.
Do all this — as well as lay out $2,200 for a VPN rep to come out and train your crew for a week, plus the cost to fly in and board that rep, plus another $1,500 to register (with $200 a year in dues after that) — and then you get...a piece of paper saying you're certified, I guess. Or the pride of being in the company of a very few pizzerias nationwide that have gone to all the trouble. I don't know if it's worth it, really. But I do know that Marco's makes some damn fine pies.
Leftovers: On November 3, Farro Italian Restaurant opened in the former Micceli's space at 8230 South Holly in Centennial. It's brought to us by John Richard and Matt Franklin, who until very recently was the guy commanding the kitchen at the Wine Experience Cafe, a Southlands restaurant I reviewed positively a few months ago.
I got Wine Experience owner Eldon Larson on the blower late last week, and he told me that Amanda McKinley — ex of the Castle Pines Golf Club and former sous to Franklin — has taken over ops in the kitchen. "She's been with us since the beginning," Larson said, explaining that nothing much was going to change at the restaurant, since Franklin and McKinley had just come up with a new fall menu before Franklin took his leave.
And that menu seems to be working, because Larson said he's seen a big spike in business recently after a bad slump in August. "As soon as September hit, our regulars came back and our weekends picked up," he told me. Weeknights, too.
Here's hoping everyone else is enjoying such a good autumn bump.