Chef Kevin Grossi opened the Regional inside Avanti Food & Beverage two years ago, following the incubator model of the food hall to test his concept, hone recipes and gain experience running his own business. His lease is up in July, and the Regional will leap from fast-casual counter to full-fledged restaurant this fall — only it won't be in Denver. Grossi plans to open the Regional in Fort Collins.
The chef has a connection with the town; he worked at Jax Fish House several years ago, between stints at Lola Coastal Mexican in LoHi. "It was the happiest I've ever been as a chef," he recalls.
The Regional specializes in simple preparations of locally produced meats and vegetables and draws inspiration from regional dishes from around the U.S. Grossi relies on Colorado farmers and ranchers to help stock his kitchen, something he plans to continue in Fort Collins. "I'll be picking up on relationships with farmers up there," he notes. "Most of them are within a few miles of the restaurant."
He'll also make farm work a part of the program for his staff, to give them hands-on experience planting and growing produce so that they can speak to customers in-depth about what's on the menu. When the Regional opens in September or October, it will still have a counter-service model, but Grossi says his team will be trained to help customers even before they get in line so that the experience will be as easy as possible to navigate. A four-seat oyster bar and a chef's counter facing into the kitchen are also part of the design. Because this will be his first restaurant, the chef has been getting input from Dave Query, who operates the Fort Collins Jax Fish House as part of his Big Red F restaurant group, and Adam Schlegel, co-founder of Snooze, which also has a Fort Collins outpost.
Grossi recently got married and has already found a new home in the town. His last day at Avanti will be July 28, and then he'll be able to turn his attention to opening the new version of the Regional at 130 South Mason Street in Fort Collins.
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So, what will become of the main-floor slot that the Regional has occupied for the past two years? Chef Ty Leon, who just left his post as executive chef at Mizuna, will launch Bistro Georgette, serving Parisian-style street food. Leon will have help from two other Mizuna colleagues: Austin Carson (general manager and sommelier) and Heather Morrison (service manager). Bistro Georgette is named after Carson's late grandmother, Georgia Buntyn, and will offer croque-madame sandwiches, moules frites, croquettes and jambon-beurre (ham and butter baguette sandwiches). Leon has been working on perfecting his savory hand pies, so those will be available during a happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m. Eclairs, tarte tatins and other seasonal desserts will round out the sweet side of the menu. Leon expects to open the eatery in early August.
Since opening in August 2015, Avanti's incubator concept has had some amount of success. On the main floor, Quiero Arepas and Brava Pizzeria have remained as successful anchors, while Farmer Girl and Bamboo Sushi have gone on to open brick-and-mortar restaurants (Farmer Girl has since closed in Lyons). Kaya Kitchen, from restaurateur Lon Symensma, will open just off the 16th Street Mall later this year, and Chow Morso, from the owners of Barolo Grill, will move into the downtown space most recently occupied by the Squeaky Bean. But Souk Shawarma, Bixo (a Mexican-Mediterranean fusion concept), Mijo (Asian noodle bowls) and Poco Torteria have opened and closed without moving on to permanent status outside the food hall. American Grind and QuickFish Poke are two of the newer counters, while Symensma just converted Kaya Kitchen to BorraCho Tacos last month.
Grossi has been a steadfast member of the Denver chef community for the past several years, participating in and organizing many fundraisers for charitable causes. He says he plans to continue his involvement with food-related events in Denver since he has made so many important connections here.