Chef Kevin Grossi was a mainstay at the Big Red F restaurant group for years, starting at Lola before going on to head the kitchen at Jax Fish House in Fort Collins, then returning to Lola as executive chef for two years. When he left, it wasn't on bad terms; instead, he was moving on to pursue the goal of opening his own eatery. And tomorrow, July 19, he'll do just that, when the Regional opens for business inside Avanti Food & Beverage.
As the name suggests, the Regional will feature regional American dishes from Grossi's childhood in New Jersey and Michigan, as well as his recent travels through the American South. "We're not fancy; we're down-home," the chef explains. So while he's meticulous about sourcing ingredients from top growers and producers from Colorado and beyond, the menu is remarkably simple and inexpensive, with the most expensive item — a shrimp-and-sausage po' poy — ringing in at $9.
Other offerings allow customers to mix and match smaller plates for a variety of flavors. Heavier mains like a zippy Nashville hot chicken sandwich or a roast pork sandwich on City Bakery bread with rapini and long hots (a classic in Philadelphia) can be combined with light sides like corn on the cob, "blessed" tomatoes drizzled with a light oil dressing, or a cabbage slaw that's been lightly fermented to give it just a touch of sauerkraut flavor.
While on a road trip to find great barbecue and other Southern dishes, Grossi came across Riverview Farms grits in Ranger, Georgia. He was so impressed with the fluffy texture and almost popcorn-like flavor that he's now special-ordering direct from the tiny farm for his shrimp and grits — and the grits are also available as a side without the shrimp. "The feel of finding those grits was exactly what we were going for," Grossi notes.
The Regional will run occasional specials, like Friday night fish fries typical in Wisconsin and Michigan, and will feature seasonal ingredients like sweet corn, Palisade peaches and flights of apple varieties. La Fillette Bakery is providing cookies and hand pies for dessert. Grossi hopes to add brunch next month.
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If you haven't been to Avanti in a while, a few changes and shuffles have taken place in the past several months. Farmer Girl is out, since chef/owner Tim Payne opened a full-service restaurant of the same name in Lyons; Bixo moved from the upper level to the main floor, next to the Regional; and Bamboo Sushi, a Portland, Oregon, company that focuses on sustainable seafood, moved in upstairs. The Regional will be around for a while; Grossi signed a two-year lease at Avanti but plans to eventually turn the concept into a full-sized restaurant. Keep reading for more photos.