Osteria Marco's Italian Meatball Sliders.
- Sliders, Bonanno style
Talking with a Top Chef
Q&A with Rioja's Jennifer Jasinski
More from the Denver Restaurant Examiner
Frank Bonanno continues to run some of the best kitchens in Denver, scratch that, Colorado. Mizuna, his French-inspired fine dining eatery, is always in the argument for best restaurant in Denver. His newest offerings, Osteria Marco (Italian-style small plates) and Bones (Japanese-fusion noodle house), have brought out a fun, affordable and almost playful side of Bonanno to downtown. And Luca D’Italia is still a staple in upscale Italian dining.
This all from a guy who graduated with a degree in finance from the University of Denver. Be thankful he shifted gears into the culinary world (including a stop at Thomas Keller's famed The French Laundry).
It’s not just me who has taken notice; earlier this year Bonanno was named one of 20 semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurateur of the Year award. The James Beard awards are as big in the industry as the Oscars in Hollywood. He didn’t make the finalist cut (the winner will be announced in May), but that hasn’t taken any of the luster off his culinary collection. He still has his two Food Network Challenge victories to fall back on. Lobster Mac 'n Cheese anyone?
During an email interview, he tells us the wierd thing about the James Beard honor, the one and only factor that will stop him from opening more restaurants, and when we can expect breakfast by Bonanno. …
He also shared a recipe that I passed off to the test kitchen of Rachel Ruff, the Denver Cooking Examiner.
Being named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Restaurateur was...honestly, I thought it was a little strange. Why wouldn’t I have been up for best chef? I physically cook in all my restaurants. That was the shocker. I mean, I was thrilled, but I would never have thought of myself as a restaurateur. I open restaurants because I like to cook.
Since you didn't get the award...I'll do what I do every day, work as hard as I can to better my restaurants. If I do my job well, the recognition will come.
You switched from finance to the culinary world to...make a happy living and stay in Colorado. It’s the best choice I ever made.
Working at The French Laundry...showed me what true professionalism in a kitchen could be. I strive for that environment.
You've been starved on a deserted island for a month; upon your Denver return, the first of your restaurants you're dining at...I would probably go to Biker Mike’s hot dogs to think it over. (You’re asking me to pick among my children, man. Just can’t do it.)
You're back on the deserted island; you can pick one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of your life and...it would be Italian. Italian food speaks to me, and it never gets old.
Back to Denver; you opened Bones...for the fun of the project. I wanted to offer food that cooks like to make and eat, something unique to Denver.
Now you have three restaurants on the same block, that makes life...easy. I used to have to walk between the restaurants through the alley. Bones has no back door, so now I can just walk the circuit out front in the open.
When you get to actually take time off...I do the most fun things I can think of with my children. They are what all of the rest of this is about, after all.
Your most recent concepts have been quite a bit more affordable than Luca and Mizuna....I think that’s what people want to eat, and more people want a casual, fun dining experience.
It becomes too many restaurants when...I can’t ride my scooter to work.
We'll see brunch on one of your menus...on Mothers’ Day at the Osteria, because I think the space and the clientele require it. As for a regular Sunday brunch, maybe the next concept. Maybe if I do a breakfast place.
- Luca d' Italia, 711 Grant St., Denver, 303.832.6600
- Mizuna, 225 E. 7th Ave., Denver, 303.832.4778
- Bones, 701 Grant St., Denver, 303.860.2929
- Osteria Marco, 1453 Larimer St., Denver, 303.534.5855
Some others Colorado chefs James Beard likes:
- Ryan Hardy, Montagna at the Little Nell, Aspen, Best Chef: Southwest finalist 2009
- Yasmín Lozada-Hissom, Duo, Denver, Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist 2009
- Alex Seidel, Fruition Restaurant, Denver, Best Chef: Southwest semifinalist 2009
- Mark Fischer, Restaurant Six89, Carbondale, Best Chef: Southwest semifinalist 2009
- Kelly Liken, Kelly Liken, Vail, Best Chef: Southwest semifinalist 2009
- Bobby Stuckey, Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award, 2008
- Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Best Chef: Southwest winner 2008