This month, the team behind newly minted Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Barolo Grill in Denver opened a casual pasta spot downtown. The new Chow Morso Osteria is replacing Chow Morso, a fixture of North Denver's Avanti Food and Beverage food hall for the past two years; the team will be closing that location in October.
Owner and wine director Ryan Fletter observed a demand from guests for high-quality Italian cuisine, but an unwillingness to trek to North Denver. Meanwhile, at Barolo Grill, guests frequently request familiar dishes like pasta carbonara and Bolognese, which aren't on the menu. This sparked the idea for a more laid-back concept, where chef Darrel Truett serves pasta puttanesca, caponata, arancini, salumi and more.
"My No. 1 goal is that we want it to be fun," Fletter told Wine Spectator. The all-Italian wine list offers about 110 selections from regions up and down the boot, with 20 available by the glass. There are some higher-end Barolos and Brunellos, but accessible picks in the $50 to $70 range, like Rosso di Montalcino and Langhe Nebbiolo, are the bulk of the list.
Fletter will develop the list with guest feedback over time. He said growth will be "slow and steady," like the wine program at Barolo Grill, which opened in 1992 with a one-page list and now offers 2,120 selections.—J.H.
Restaurateur Michael Mina has a opened a Bourbon Steak in Nashville, the newest location to his Restaurant Award–winning concept. Like its sibling restaurants, Bourbon Steak Nashville will put an emphasis on both Old and New World red wines. "Whether you want a Cult Cabernet to pair with a steak or are looking to be surprised by a varietal that you haven’t tried before, our goal is to have a choice that suits what you are looking for," Mina Group wine director Benito Martinez told Wine Spectator.
The restaurant currently offers 250 selections and 20 by-the-glass options, but Martinez is hoping to grow the list to 400 selections, based on customer feedback. "I think the most important thing you can do when opening a new concept or a new market is to be a good listener," Martinez said. "I'm excited to learn about what people want to drink in Nashville."—B.G.
Del Frisco's Restaurant Group (DFRG) has struck a deal to sell its 14-location Sullivan's Steakhouse to Romano's Macaroni Grill for $32 million.
Sullivan's Steakhouse is one of three concepts owned by DFRG, which has earned a total of 65 Restaurant Awards along with their Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse and Del Frisco's Grille restaurants, including a Grand Award in New York City. In May 2018, DFRG bought the Barteca group.
"The acquisition of Sullivan's Steakhouse is precisely aligned with our strategic plan and vision," Nishant Machado, CEO of Romano's Macaroni Grill, told Wine Spectator. "We are focused on brands that provide guests with true hospitality and a unique experience, which the Sullivan's Steakhouse concept and team embodies." Machado doesn't envision any major changes to the wine programs. "Sullivan's has a great wine list, and we will continue to build on it to meet and exceed our guests' expectation," he said.—G.S.
On Sept. 17, Southern steak house Char Restaurant opened in Nashville, Tenn., its third location. The Jackson, Miss., restaurant holds an Award of Excellence for its 160-selection wine list, while this outpost opened with about 100 selections by the bottle and 15 by the glass.
According to co-owner Doug Hogrefe, Nashville's wine scene has grown "by leaps and bounds" since he moved there in 1999, and he hopes Char Restaurant will contribute to further progress. Managed by sommelier Andy Perry, the wine program at the new Char offers a combination of benchmark wines and less familiar picks, with plenty of bottles under $100.
"Being a small company, money isn't everything," Hogrefe told Wine Spectator. "So it's really important that we provide value in our wine program." A fourth Char Restaurant is slated to open in Huntsville, Ala., in March 2019.—J.H.
The Marzovilla family behind Best of Award Excellence winner I Trulli in New York opened Ristoro del Cinghiale this month, just a few doors down.
"We would consider it a sister restaurant, but the concepts are as different as they can be in terms of Italian cuisine," general manager George Hock told Wine Spectator. While I Trulli features mostly cuisine from Puglia, Ristoro del Cinghiale focuses on the wood-burning oven techniques of Tuscany, with a spotlight on meats like wild boar.
The 100-selection wine list follows this theme, focusing largely on Tuscany, with 20 by-the-glass options. "When you pair Tuscan cuisine and Tuscan wine, it is difficult to find a bad wine pairing," Hock said.—B.G.
Best of Award of Excellence winner Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif., reopened Sept. 19 after a July fire spread to the attic above the kitchen and caused a power outage.
"We do look at it as a rebirth, a rejuvenation," said wine director Jim Rollston. "The thing about [chef and owner] David [Kinch], too, is he's somebody who always regenerates the restaurant anyway." Rollston added that there was no damage to the wine inventory, as a generator restored proper cellar temperatures the day following the outage.
Over the two-month break, the team developed a completely new menu and fresh set of wine pairings. New items include a ground-squid Bolognese with fried capers, tomato and verbena, paired with a white blend from Campania's Reale Andrea winery in southern Italy.—J.H.
The fall season brings staff changes to multiple Restaurant Award winners. At Grand Award winner Studio, located at the Montage Laguna Beach Hotel in California, Benjamin Martinek has replaced Craig Strong as the new chef de cuisine. Martinek, who has been on the hotel's culinary team for seven years, is in the process of revamping Studio's menu for the season, which will highlight fish sustainably sourced from California and Hawaii.
On Oct. 1, Michael Santoro will leave his position as executive chef of the Washington, D.C., Watergate Hotel and its restaurant, Kingbird. His replacement at the Best of Award of Excellence winner hasn't yet been appointed.
And over at Armani Ristorante in New York, Alessandro Fagorzi succeeds Eleonora Rocca as the Best of Award of Excellence winner's new wine director. He'll manage Armani's 500-selection wine list, which he plans to grow.—B.G.
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